Scotland’s unsuccessful referendum for independence cannot be said to have inspired similar movements in Europe, yet Catalonia in northeast Spain has been thinking about independence for some time and is building steam for a separatist break.

Regional authorities have set a nonbinding referendum for its 5.4 million voters Nov. 9. Its prospects for a positive vote are questionable, possibly less so than Scotland’s.

Catalonia, with 8 million of Spain’s 46 million people, is the recession-battered European Union country’s most prosperous area. It has its own language, cuisine and Spain’s second-largest city, Barcelona, with 5 million people. Its economy, based on manufacturing, agriculture and tourism, represents 20 percent of Spain’s.

The big question is whether Catalonia’s prosperity can survive if it is no longer part of Spain. Its leaders think so, and they are backed by nationalist movements that have organized mass demonstrations. The Spanish constitution says that the whole country must vote on any secession.

As with Scotland, a Catalonian secession would probably not benefit Spain as a whole, or U.S. relations with it. But this effort, in a long history of an internally divided Spain, is a European phenomenon that bears watching.


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