Catalonia again calls for Scottish-style independence referendum

Demonstrators, many waving Spanish and Catalan flags, rallied in Barcelona on Sunday to oppose a push by the regional government of Catalonia to break away from the rest of Spain. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2017
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Catalonia again calls for Scottish-style independence referendum

MADRID: Catalonia’s separatist government has again urged Spain’s central government to let it hold a legal referendum on independence like the one Scotland staged in 2014 with London’s approval.
“The government of Britain and Scotland agreed on a referendum,” the president of the regional Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, and his vice president, Oriol Junqueras, wrote in a letter published in daily newspaper El Pais.
“And everything indicates that Scotland and Britain will once again agree on the celebration of a new referendum on independence.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday demanded a new independence referendum by early 2019, once the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union are clearer.
She is widely expected to get the Scottish parliament’s support for her quest in a vote on Wednesday but still needs the agreement of the British government to proceed.
In Scotland’s 2014 plebiscite, 55 percent backed staying in the UK.
“The scenario of an agreed referendum is what we desire in Catalonia,” the Catalan leaders wrote in their letter.
“We would like to recall that we have proposed it on various occasions. Today, despite the bad omens and the outright rejection of the Spanish government, we once again insist on it.”
The government of Catalonia, a wealthy region in northeastern Spain that has its own distinct language and is home to 7.5 million people, has since 2010 sought to hold an independence referendum.
But Spain’s conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has repeatedly ruled out giving the region a vote on independence, saying it would be illegal and against the constitution — a stance supported by the judiciary.
The Catalan government has vowed to hold an independence referendum by September — with or without the approval of the central government.
“We will do the unspeakable so that the citizens of Catalonia can vote in 2017 in an auto determination referendum,” Puigdemont and Junqueras wrote.
Demands for autonomy have been fueled by Spain’s economic downturn, leading many to resent sending tax money to Madrid to prop up poorer regions.
Recent attempts by Madrid to interfere with Catalan education have further stoked passions as did a 2010 ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court that struck down part of a 2006 autonomy statute that recognized Catalonia as a “nation” within Spain.
Opinion polls show Catalans are evenly divided on independence, although the vast majority back a referendum.


Trump signs ‘Space Force’ directive

The creation of Space Force is by no means a done deal, as it must be vetted and approved by Congress. (AP)
Updated 16 min 18 sec ago
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Trump signs ‘Space Force’ directive

  • The forces is to protect satellites
  • The order calls for Congress to draft legislation that would establish it

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump signed an order Tuesday outlining his vision for a new “Space Force” that could one day become a separate military branch on an equal footing to the Army and Navy.
Trump wants to create a space force to protect satellites, tackle vulnerabilities in space and assert US dominance in orbit.
“We have to be prepared,” Trump told reporters after signing the directive.
“My administration has made the creation of a space force a national security issue.”
Space Force would be the sixth branch of the military alongside the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard.
The order calls for Congress to draft legislation that would establish Space Force as a branch that falls under the Air Force, similar to how the Navy oversees the Marine Corps.
Defense Department spokesman Charlie Summers said the Pentagon would submit its legislative proposal within the coming weeks.
With the new directive, “Trump is posturing the United States to compete, deter, and win in a complex multi-domain environment characterized by great power competition,” Summers said in a statement.
The Air Force said a space force would work “to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in space, and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces.”
But the creation of Space Force is by no means a done deal, as it must be vetted and approved by Congress.
Lawmakers and defense officials have reacted with skepticism, wary of the cost and added bureaucracy.
Space plays a vital role in just about every aspect of modern warfare, with many military technologies reliant on a network of orbiting sensors and satellites, and the Pentagon has warned that countries such as Russia and China are working to build anti-satellite capabilities.