President Puigdemont: “My government will call an independence referendum; the allocation of funds is perfectly legal”

The Catalan government and its CUP ally are considering whether to draft a new bill or leave it unchanged despite the warning by the Council of Guarantees

On Friday Catalonia’s Council for Statutory Guarantees (CSG) issued a resolution invalidating the additional provision in the government’s budget that deals with the independence referendum scheduled for this year. Nevertheless, the Catalan government is determined to forge ahead with its road map. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who had travelled to Palafolls to give the closing speech at the conference of Municipalities for Independence (AMI), stated on Friday that “my government will call an independence referendum and the allocation of funds is perfectly legal”.

In his address, Puigdemont emphasised that the €5.8M earmarked for holding an independence referendum in 2017 “is lawful” according to the report by the CSG, as it only takes issue with additional provision 31 of the budget, which refers to the vote explicitly. “We are pleased to hear that the item earmarked for the referendum has been fully endorsed”, he added.

Earlier that day, Minister for the Presidency Neus Munté had insisted that the government is totally committed to holding an independence vote and was reluctant to comment on the Council’s non-binding ruling. Munté spoke at a media event on occasion of the 40th anniversary of the return of president Josep Tarradellas from exile in France.

When asked about the report, Munté replied that “we do not know its content and we would like to have all the facts before offering an opinion”. Still, she stressed that the Catalan government has “a democratic mandate” to hold an independence referendum and it is assuming that this is “perfectly legal and democratic”.

The government and the CUP weigh their options

The ruling by Catalonia’s Council for Statutory Guarantees invalidates the additional provision on the independence referendum which establishes that the government is to hold a vote on independence in 2017, but does not suspend the allocation of funds to elections and the contingency budget which, in theory, will also be spent on the referendum. Government sources have explained to this newspaper that the priority remains unchanged, even though they will study the ruling to decide whether additional provision 31 should we worded differently. There are three options: to keep the current text as it is, to amend it or to drop any explicit reference to an independence referendum. The same sources pointed out that all three options are being considered.

Far-left CUP have not decided yet whether the additional provision must be re-written or not. Sources within the anti-capitalist group have stated to the Catalan News Agency that the budget may still be amended to include improvements of a social nature, but they would not accept “a change of course” on the subject of the referendum, no matter what. The same sources also indicated that the position of the Council was to be expected and, on this point, the CUP believes that if Catalonia is not allowed to hold a vote on independence, it is due to “Spain’s democratic deficit”.

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