Sturgeon’s decision on second referendum in Scotland before 2018 ends / Catalan pro-independence parties hold control of Parliament Board

12 to 18 January

Nicola Sturgeon.
Nicola Sturgeon. Author: Office of the First Minister of Scotland
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is set to decide before 2018 ends whether to move forward with a proposal for a second independence referendum, after details of the agreement between London and Brussels about Brexit are known. In Catalonia, pro-independence parties will again hold the presidency and control of the Parliament Bureau, which has been elected after the 21 December Catalan vote. In the Basque Country, tens of thousands have demonstrated for the freedom of Basque prisoners. Outside Europe, we are highlighting the Burma-Bangladesh agreement on the return of Rohingya refugees.


Nicola Sturgeon to make decision on second independence vote at the end of 2018. The Scottish first minister has said she wants to wait until the UK-EU final Brexit deal is known before deciding whether to move forward or not with plans to call a new referendum. London and Brussels are expected to agree on the final terms of Brexit in October 2018.Sturgeon’s SNP is seeking in the meantime that the UK government backtracks from its decision to not only leave the EU but the single market too.

The first independence referendum took place in September 2014. 55% of voters chose to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom. In March 2017 —10 months after the UK voted to leave the EU even though 62% of Scottish voters supported remaining in— Sturgeon announced she would be seeking the support of the Scottish Parliament to negotiate a second independence referendum. It is not at all certain that the UK government would accept such a negotiation.

Most recent surveys put “no” to independence 7 to 13 percentage points above “yes”. But independence advocates believe an abrupt Brexit could increase the number of secession supporters.


Pro-independence parties hold majority in Board of Catalan Parliament. Centre-left ERC member Roger Torrent has been elected 17 January the new chairman of the Board, after incumbent chairwoman Carme Forcadell has decided not to hold the position in the 13th Catalan Parliament after the 21 December election. Out of seven seats in the Board, four will be held by members of pro-independence parties (ERC two and Junts per Catalunya another two), while the remaining three will be occupied by unionist parties (Citizens’ Party two and PSC-PSOE one). Catalunya en Comú (CeC), PP and CUP have been left with no members in the Board, which is a key body as it is responsible for the management of the Parliament and for the interpretation of its rules.

Mass demonstration for freedom of Basque prisoners. 95,000 people, according to a Naiz and Gara count, have demonstrated in the streets of Bilbao to demand the release of prisoners of the Basque conflict and, at least, the end of the dispersion policy. The march has coincided with the announcement of a decision by the French government to transfer ETA prisoners to prisons close to the Northern Basque Country, or Iparralde. The demonstration, which has been taking place every January since 2008, was called by citizen umbrella group Sare.

Burma-Bangladesh agreement on the return of Rohingya refugees. The two Asian governments have agreed that 650,000 Rohingya refugees currently sheltered in Bangladesh will return to Burma within two years’ time. UNHCR has recalled that the return should be “voluntary” and has stressed the fact that many Rohingya are afraid for their own security and legal status. The Rohingya people has been subject to a long history of persecution in Burma. Hundreds of thousands Rohingya fled to Bangladesh last summer, amid attacks by the Burmese army and paramilitaries that killed thousands. The army has just admitted for the first time that its soldiers were involved in some killings.