9 best Barcelona beer gardens

Barcelona has been a sweatbox of a city for months on end now, with the trusty old trope of “¡Es la humedad!” trotted out by way of resigned explanation in offices, on street corners and under awnings alike. Whether you’re a flagging guiri or a non-fazed local, a beer garden setting in which to sequester from the city haze has taken on an almost primeval appeal.

Discover these nine foliage-fringed hideaways across the Catalan capital that meet the two killer criteria: soil-secured shrubs and beer.

L’Antic Teatre (barrio: Born) – Barcelona’s most boho beer garden

If the sturdy centenarian fig tree rooted into the open-air terrace of L’Antic Teatre could talk, it would no doubt relate a rollicking tale or two. The roof garden bar of a lively Barcelona cultural and social centre, this flora-flecked patio is one of the city’s worst kept secrets. Climb the steps that lead up from one of the Born’s narrow alleyways and you’ll likely find yourself rubbing shoulders with a hardy mix of hipsters, clued-up tourists and thespian sorts, all here for the beer and atmosphere.

L'Antic Teatre Barcelona

The vibe is free-spirited and the beer free-flowing (and as a bonus, cheap). Sit back, sip a San Miguel and the chances are you’ll still be here by the time the Chinese lanterns start to glow, the conversation has turned to performance art and politics and the neighbours’ knickers hanging overhead have all but dried.

Carrer de Verdaguer i Callís 12, anticteatre.com/ Open Mon-Fri 10am – 11.30pm, Sat-Sun 4pm – 11.30pm

Biergarten (barrio: Les Corts) – so Teutonic all that’s missing is a Munich maypole

The undisputed title-holder of the most ‘authentic’ German beer garden in Barcelona, Biergarten is an adjunct to the 5-star Princesa Sofía hotel on Diagonal Avenue. Blue-and-white checked tablecloths festoon the tables and long wooden benches, while a combination of trees and marquees provide plenty of shade from the Barcelona sun. There are even forbearing waitresses decked out in full-blown dirndls (which gets a bit disconcerting when you hear them privately natter in colloquial Catalan), not to mention German pop hits playing (not far enough) in the background. Close your eyes and you could be in Bavaria.

Biergarten-Barcelona

Germany’s Erdinger wheat beer brewery is most heavily represented on Biergarten’s menu, with the brand’s white and dark Weißbiers (wheat beers) available both bottled and on tap. The classic sweet pilsner Gaffel Kölsch also features, or recreate memories of Munich with the bottled lager Augustiner. If shandy’s more your thing, sample a refreshing Radler – draught Erdinger and 7UP.

German pub grub gets a substantial look-in, too, with old stalwarts like Weisswurst and Bratwurst sausages kept company by traditional potato salads, pretzels and even an apple strudel. Roll up your lederhosen, raise an outsized stein and tuck in.

Plaça Pius XII, 4 (next to Hotel Princesa Sofia), ONLY OPEN DURING SUMMER MONTHS

El Jardí (barrio: Raval) – immure yourself in medieval ambience

There are those who rhapsodise about the Raval, and those (admittedly fewer) like me who are more circumspect in savouring its at times decidedly unsavoury character. El Jardí, buried a few alleyways back from the Boquería market in the Gothic gardens of the former Hospital de la Santa Creu, is one nifty nook I’m always happy to induct friends into. The blackboard outside blandishes “tapas, cocktails, salads, sun and a kick-ass atmosphere”, and, cloistered into a corner of the 15th-century courtyard, the setting is arguably the best thing on the menu.

El Jardi entrance, Barcelona Raval

El Jardí is not famed for its generosity when it comes to promoting artisanal local beers, nor is it flush with international names. Bottled beers include Estrella, Clara, Voll-Damm, Free Damm and, intriguingly, Zurito (the Basque term for a small glass of beer). There’s also Estrella on tap. If you’re bypassing beer altogether, opt for the decent selection of wines or the particularly moreish strawberry mojito.

Live music in the evening under the shady colonnades and twinkling tree lights makes El Jardí the perfect pitstop before you move on to some of the Raval’s more rambunctious nightspots later on.

Carrer de L’Hospital 56, eljardibarcelona.es/ Open Mon-Sun 10.30am – midnight

Bar Jardí (barrio: Gothic Quarter) – a surrealist quest for a summer cerveza

Not to be confused (which it often is) with its namesake El Jardí, the Gothic Quarter’s ‘garden bar’ is a clandestine corner if ever there was one. A totemic white camel stands sentinel over the official entrance, on Portaferrissa Street itself, and assuming you remember the password ‘random’ you’ll be granted passage through a disorientatingly lurid accessories boutique before you reach a narrow staircase at the end.

Bar-Jardi Gotico Barcelona
Hang in there, and you’ll be rewarded with the sight of around 20 tables amid a tangle of trees, with a fully stocked bar that includes a not unbefitting bottle of absinthe alongside a range of Spanish and imported draught and bottled beers.

Carrer de la Portaferrissa 17, facebook.com/Barjardielmercadillodelcamello, Open Mon-Sun 11am – 9pm

Cafe d’Estiu (barrio: Gothic Quarter) – a calm little corner hidden from the old-town hordes

The ‘summer cafe’ is set in the courtyard of an imposing Gothic edifice – the erstwhile palace of the Counts of Barcelona – which today houses a museum in homage to the Catalan collector and sculptor Frederic Marès. Tourists don’t tend to stumble upon it, but persevere past the Cathedral, through medieval doorways, under archways, beyond the orange tree and past the fish pond, and a surprisingly serene little spot awaits you.

cafe-d'estiu gpthic quarter barcelona

From the cask there’s Filipino export San Miguel, with Estrella Damm, Voll-Damm, Moritz, Coronita and alcohol-free beer all from the bottle. Other tipples include Bacardi, Baileys, Cava and wine, plus a commendable stab at an Irish coffee. Despite its size, the Cafe d’Estiu boasts a well-stocked kitchen, with bar snacks like olives, crisps and hummus bolstered by wraps, salads and sandwiches to take the edge off if you’re already a few rounds in.

Plaça Sant Iu 5, cafedestiu.com, Open 1 April – 18 October 2015 Tue-Sun 10am – 10pm

Fragments Cafe (barrio: Les Corts) – a cute, cosy spot for a languorous afternoon

A favourite haunt of Les Corts’ natives (the neighbourhood that’s home to Barça’s stomping ground, the Nou Camp), Fragments occupies the corner spot on a lively local square. Venture past the terrace tables outside and straight on through the indoor seating to reach the glass-roofed garden patio at the back, where, if you’re in luck, you’ll be able to bag a table. The Havana-style fan thrums obligingly overhead, the fairy lights hugging the tree trunks twinkle and classic jazz can just be heard over intimate conversations in Catalan and Spanish.

Fragments-Cafe-Barcelona

Fragments is renowned for its tapas (its patatas bravas rank among the best in Barcelona), and also offers an extensive wine list. Suds-wise, your options are La Rosita (a honey-coloured, twice-fermented ale from Tarragona), the premium Alhambra Reserva 1925 in its snazzy jade bottle, or Voll Damm, your standard pale lager. Even better, do as the barrio’s knowing bartender recommends and make straight for the Mahou on tap.

Plaça de la Concórdia 12,  fragmentscafe.com/ Open Tue-Wed 10.30pm – 1am, Thu-Fri 12.30pm – 2.30am, Sat 11.30am – 2.30am, Sun 11.30am – 1am

Belvedere (barrio: Dreta de L’Eixample) – a top-class, topiary-clad terrace

One block back from the classy Rambla de Catalunya, on a discreet L’Eixample passageway, cocktail bar Belvedere is a chic retreat for discerning diners and cocktail aficionados alike. Inside is a 40s-style carpeted cocktail lounge, complete with velveteen settees and low-key lighting. Out front, climbers and vines conceal the garden terrace’s six white curlicued tables from passers-by on the street outside.

The surroundings are sophisticated, but don’t worry that this place is pretentious – the thoughtful hospitality of veteran bartender and owner Gines will soon put you at ease. In fact, with the congenial Gines you’re in the hands of an expert bartender. With 20 years at the helm, his cocktail credentials are celebrated throughout the city and he’s even about to have a book published on the craft.

Belvedere-Barcelona-terrace

But what of the beer, you cry! Bottled brews on the menu include Heineken, Moritz, Alhambra Reserva 1925, la Coronita, Voll Damm, Pilsner Urquell and Guinness, while the wine list includes several good whites from the Penedes region and stand-out reds from la Rioja and Ribera de Duero. Frankly, though, I’d forego beer on this occasion and ask Gines to concoct you up a signature cocktail instead.

Passatge de Mercader 3, Open Mon-Fri 1.30pm – 2.30am (note: shut at weekends)

Torre Rosa (barrio: Sant Andreu) – colonial cool for balmy Barcelona nights

The pink-turreted vision of this seigneurial century-old mansion, squarely set on a humdrum street in Barcelona’s Sant Andreu barrio, is enough to make you double check you haven’t mistakenly disembarked the metro somewhere south of Quito. This colonial villa owes its construction to a so-called Catalan ‘indio’ (locals who left to make their fortune in the Americas before returning home to flaunt their wealth). For the past almost 30 years, Torre Rosa has been run by the Reig family as a 2-storey and internationally acclaimed cocktail palace.

Torre-Rosa-terrace by Julie Sheridan

Clued-up barceloneses make the pilgrimage every Sunday to sample vermouths on the palm and pine-clad terrace, but there’s no need to wait all week if the clam’s got you craving a chilled, casual place to down a few drinks in a unique al fresco setting. Beers come bottled (Moritz, Heineken, Chimay, Franziskaner Hefe-Weißbier Naturtrüb, Voll Damm and Coronita),  on tap (Estrella Damm) and craft (Glops beer from a micro-brewery in Hospitalet, Barcelona) or choose a favourite from the boundless list of branded gins.

Carrer de Francesc Tàrrega 22, torrerosa.com/ Open Mon-Thu 7pm – 2.30am, Fri 7pm – 3am, Sat 12pm – 3am, Sun 12pm – 2.30am

La Caseta del Migdia (barrio: Sants-Montjuïc) – a woodland chiringuito on the edge of Montjuïc

Whether you’ve nipped up on the 150 bus or caught a cable car to the castle before traipsing the cacti-ridden cliff-top path, reaching La Caseta del Migdia is always a heart-warming moment. The beer is basic (the local Moritz is your only option) and the grub unsophisticated (barbequed chicken, sausages, salad and corn-on-the-cob) but hell, who cares, when you can take your pick of deck chairs, hammocks and a clutch of sea-view tables under a canopy of shady pines.

la-caseta-del-migdia

But it’s into the gloaming when La Caseta really gets going, complete with candles, chill-out music and views of the Mediterranean sunset that have almost become a rite of passage for Barcelona locals.

Past Montjuic Castle on the edge of a cliff (follow signs for Mirador del Migdia after taking bus no. 150 from Av. Reina Maria Cristina), lacaseta.org/ Open summer from 23 June Thu-Fri 8pm – 1am, Sat 12pm till 7pm then 8pm till 1.30am, Sun 12pm till 7pm then 8pm till midnight, and Wednesdays 9pm – midnight with prior booking only

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Beyond Barcelona – day trips for the Catalan-curious

(Ahem. As I was saying.)

After more than four years living la vida local in Barcelona, I have to admit I feel I’ve exhausted every major day trip destination a person can conceivably cover without a car. Don’t get me wrong – Barcelona is blessed with an impressive hit list of hot spots all relatively accessible by public transport. I’m thinking, as most visitors tend to, of the beaches of Sitges, the jauntily painted houses hanging over Girona’s River Onyar or the torqueing alleyways of old-town Tarragona.

Girona houses over Anyar River

Girona’s pretty palette of riverside houses

Cool as they are, these destinations lose their appeal somewhat on the umpteenth occasion, so I’ve started venturing further to discover new places to take family and friends on their Barcelona visits. Here are four towns you can do in a day from the Catalan capital, and still be back in BCN for supper.

Vilanova i la Geltrú – sand and slush puppies

Board the train from Barcelona’s Estació de Sants, wait around 35 minutes then watch the throngs disembark at the Costa Dorada’s sparkly cynosure, the seemingly ever-sunny Sitges. Stay on the train just a few minutes more and it will pull in to Vilanova i la Geltrú – a bracingly unpretentious city that few tourists ever get to discover. Almost equidistant between Barcelona and Tarragona, Vilanova is altogether less congested and confected than neighbouring Sitges, with a longer Rambla than Barcelona, medieval walls and a stunning marina.

To sample some traditional Vilanova fishermen’s fare, seek out one of the portside restaurants on Passeig de Ribes Roges and scan the menu to make sure they have xató. This fresh-fish salad features cod and anchovies as the main ingredients, dressed with almond-based romesco sauce, but the real star of the show is the garlic, which you’ll be telling your grand-kids about in years to come.

xato salad from Vilanova

Xató salad – you can taste the garlic from here

After lunch, Vilanova’s beaches are just a short walk away. There are five in total, fringed with golf course-like grass and much wider and longer than the urban beaches you’ll find in Barcelona. Take a stroll down between turf and surf and plonk yourself there for the duration, till it’s time for the train back to Sants.

Oh, and don’t forget to order a ‘mig-mig’ to go while you’re walking back for the train. This drink is another Vilanova specialty; a unique take on ‘horchata’, the tiger nut-inspired drink that defies logical labelling, in this case blended with lemon slush. Trust me, this Vilanova version is gorgeous, and extremely refreshing. Just remember it’s pronounced more like ‘meech-meech’ than ‘meeg-meeg’ to avoid sniggering baby hamster comparisons from the locals.

Vilanova beaches

Less cramped than Sitges, the beaches of Vilanova are long and wide

Rolling northwards to Rupit

Fair enough, you’ll need a car for this one, but if wheels are no object then you might want to head north for an hour and a half’s drive to the rustic, rural and rocky Catalan village of Rupit.

entrance-to-Rupit

Bucolic beauty an hour and a half’s drive from Barcelona

A long-time favourite destination for herds of Spanish school children (but don’t let that put you off), Rupit is a fantastically photogenic village straddling a stream and boasting its own suspension foot bridge, cobblestoned streets and cottage balconies bedecked with the ubiquitous red geraniums.

Rupit-hanging-bridge

Rupit – trip trap toe into a bygone era

You could easily spend a pleasant couple of hours just wandering around and soaking up the feel of the place, but if you’re up for something a bit more active, don’t miss the riverside walk starting behind the village in the direction of the Salt de Sallent (a spectacular 300m waterfall in the middle of the cliff-ridden Catalan countryside). From Rupit you could make it there and back within two hours, depending on how muddy parts of the route are.

An alternative from Rupit would be to take the 20-minute drive south west to the slightly more touristy but still stunning village of Tavertet, perched on a pinnacle overlooking the Sau Collsacabra valley and dam.

Rupit has a handful of eateries serving up home-cooked Catalan dishes, and I especially liked Ca l’Estragues on 4 Carrer de la Esglesia. Favoured by locals, it has a warm, family feel and the food is robust, which will stand you in good stead if you’re here to hike.

Caldes de Montbui – hot springs and healing waters

Having spent an unforgettable weekend last summer at Caldes de Montbui’s Escaldarium festival, it still surprises me how many Barcelona locals seem never to have heard of this town. With its thermal springs, exceptionally well-preserved Roman ruins and clutch of Picasso originals, it deserves to rank up there among the best of Barcelona day trip options.

caldes-fountain

The ‘Font del Lleó’ – Lion Fountain, spurting out scalding hot springs

The town has an impressive tourist information centre, which hutches up alongside the Thermalia Museum in a 14th-century former hospital on the other side of the square from the Lion Fountain. I would head there first to get oriented and plan the day. They also run cut-price guided tours of the town’s main points of interest, which include the Roman Baths, hot springs, traditional outdoor laundry houses and 12th-century prison tower.

A trip to Caldes wouldn’t be complete without sampling the salutary springs for yourself, so aim to book a spa treatment in advance in one of the main hotels (Hotel Balneari Termes Victoria being one great example).

No car needed for this one – from Barcelona just catch the Sagales bus from 52 Passeig de Sant Joan, with a total journey time of around 50 minutes.

Vic – old-school charcuterie and charm

The northern town of Vic is known for a couple of things in these parts – fervent Catalan nationalism and llonganisa sausages. Its arcaded plaza is the biggest main square in Catalonia, and hosts the town’s market on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. If you time your visit to coincide, you’ll see a sprawl of stalls peddling products for which Vic is famous, including the obligatory pork offerings.

Sadly, I was there on a Sunday, at which point all the main square lacked was some tumbleweed. On the upside, the food was brilliant, and not a sausage in sight.

central plaza of Vic, Catalonia

The arcaded central plaza, the morning after the market

From the central plaza take your pick of windy lanes leading into Vic’s old quarter, but don’t expect to find that same lane again on your way back. It’s a medieval maze, though if you’re in luck you’ll stumble across the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle, alongside which sits the renowned Episcopal Museum, housing masterpieces of Romanesque and Gothic art.

Vic Roman Temple

Vic’s Roman Temple – only rediscovered late 19th century

For food, try the faultless Denominación de Origen, wedged between the Plaza Mayor and the Cathedral. The ‘pica-pica’ tasting menu works out well if you can’t face large set courses, and will let you sample a wide range of Catalan cooking in this most loyal heartland. Transport-wise, you can of course cruise up to Vic by car, or catch a train from Barcelona’s Sants Station, journey time around an hour and a half.

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Is Scotland set to break Catalonia’s heart?

It’s not a good sign when you sit down to write a blog post and your heart is already sinking.

Alliterative reasons aside, not for nothing is my blog subtitled ‘from Caledonia to Catalonia’. But as a Scot who’s spent the last almost three and a half years living and working in Barcelona, I have to admit that I’ve tried my hardest to steer clear of the entire socio-political morass developing on both sides of the Channel.

Why? Because I can’t win. Catalans, on hearing that I hail from Scotland rather than England, invariably assume I’m on their side (i.e. a raging nationalist). Scots, meanwhile, on hearing that I forsook the homeland in pursuit of Spanish fluency, deny me a vote in a historic referendum on my own country’s future.

Not to mention the countless Catalans – in Barcelona’s bars and on Twitter – who assure me that “Scotland is not even a country – everybody knows that.”

But with less than two months till Scotland goes to the ballot box, I’ve run out of excuses to sidestep the minefield.

I have no idea which way Scotland will vote in September (have I mentioned I don’t even get a vote?!), but I do want to talk about my experience here in Catalonia in the run-up to the referendum. And why I think Catalans might be backing the wrong horse.

Inca-Catalan-Independence

Precisely.

Two anecdotes to warm us up…

Around a year ago, I was heading home from work on the Barcelona metro and reading some research in English as I waited for the train. A fair-haired tourist walked up to me and, clocking the report, chirped, “Ah, are you English?” Without thinking, I smiled back “No, I’m Scottish”.

In a second, his demeanour changed. (He, apparently, was English.)

“You Scots” he sneered contemptuously, “you always have to make that point, don’t you?” And with that, he stormed off.

Left stunned on the metro platform, it occurred to me that if the situation had been reversed, and I had seen his appearance and fact he was reading an English report and said “Ah, so you’re Scottish?”, he would naturally have replied “No, I’m English”, without thinking any more of it. Yet as a Scot, I was not afforded the same courtesy.

More recently, I was talking to a Catalan friend on WhatsApp, and made some typically sarcastic joke about some nonsense or other. Failing to grasp the sense of humour (that’s a whole other blog post, believe me), my friend texted back “Exagerada”. “Of course I exaggerate”, I replied, “I’m British!”

His comeback was swift.

“You’re not British” he replied, in all seriousness. “You’re Scottish.”

The two scenarios have similarities. Firstly, the arrogance of someone presuming to correct what nationality you think you are. Just imagine the scenario in reverse – me saying to a local, “you’re not Catalan, you’re Spanish”. The fallout would not be pretty. Secondly, and this is where it gets fascinating – why is my nationality so important to both of these people from different countries?

Scotland – from touchpaper to touchstone?

On 18 September this year, around 4 million voters will head to the polls to have their say on whether Scotland, already a country in its own right, should opt for out-and-out independence from the United Kingdom.

As a Scot living abroad, I’m not entitled to a vote, as the Scottish government has decreed that only those people living in the country and registered to vote on Referendum Day can take part in the democratic decision.

(Bit unfair, eh? Yes and no. There are days it still rankles that I won’t get to cast a vote, as someone who was born and brought up in Scotland, is likely to move back one day and still owns property there. On the other hand, I can appreciate the administrative nightmare the Scottish authorities were presumably faced with. How do you decide who’s ‘Scottish’ enough to vote? What exactly are the criteria?)

Meanwhile, in the run-up to Referendum Day, my Catalan compatriots, most of whom have never set foot in Scotland, haven’t given me a minute’s peace. Say you’re Scottish (I try not to, but I fear the myriad mosquito punctures betray me) and their eyes light up.

Them: “So you’ll be voting for independence then?”

Me, patently trying to dodge the question: “Um, actually I don’t get to vote, because I live here.”

Them: “But if you did, I assume you’d be voting for independence, right?”

At this point, the smart answer would be to say aye of course, kick off my flip-flops and dance a Highland jig, but something in me resents the assumption that as a Scot I am automatically a nationalist.

Because nationalism is not a notion deserving of inherent trust. I’m Scottish, I’m British, and I’m most definitely European, but for the life of me I can’t see the sense in defining ourselves even more narrowly than we already do.

Agitating for autonomy

Support for secession has been on the up in Catalonia ever since the start of ‘La Crisis’; the dire state of economic affairs in which Spain has been floundering since 2008.

It’s no exaggeration to say the effects here have been devastating.

Every day in Barcelona I walk past people – of all ages and backgrounds – hunting around in public wheelie bins for something to eat, or to sell. The numbers who’ve lost their homes and jobs have all swelled the ranks of the vocal and visible supporters of Catalan nationalism, many of whom joined hands last September to form a 300-mile human chain in support of Catalan independence.

Catalan flag Girona by Keith Ellwood

The recession has been that bit harder to bear in Catalonia because, and here’s the rub, many locals see themselves as contributing disproportionately to Spanish state coffers, receiving a paltry molt poc in return.

You can see their point. In fact, Catalonia contributes around a fifth of Spain’s GDP and accounts for roughly a quarter of its taxes. It has a rightful claim as the economic powerhouse of Spain (although scant few Catalans seem willing to chalk up any part of the Crisis blame to the spending decisions of their own regional government, the Generalitat).

Catalan president Artur Mas has announced a ‘consultation’ on Catalan independence to be held two months after the Scottish ballot, on the 9th of November. It’s a ‘consultation’ rather than a referendum as the Spanish government has avowedly refused to entertain the idea of a legally sanctioned vote, leaving campaigning Catalans somewhat in no man’s land in the interim.

The confusion even among Catalanists is palpable, with some pushing for outright sovereignty, others for greater devolutionary powers and still others for the ‘third way’; a negotiated solution that would bring about an end to the impasse.

Scotland and Catalonia: two very different situations

The Scottish bid for independence is often held up by Catalans as the great aspiration, but my experience of both locations is that the comparison is inappropriate.

Catalonia’s cultural identity is deeply pegged to its language, with most inhabitants of the region enthusiastically speaking Catalan alongside Spanish.

Not so in Scotland, where Gaelic is most definitely relegated to the ranks of a romantic linguistic relic. (Don’t be fooled by cheery signs of ‘Failte!’ in Edinburgh’s Waverley station. The tourists may love it but only 1% of the Scottish population actually recognise it as their native language.)

The Catalan language, in contrast, is thriving. Enter Barcelona’s metro system and you’ll be greeted by ticket-vending machines that talk to you exclusively in Catalan. Get admitted to Barcelona’s hospital system (as I was for over a fortnight), and you will be given medical paperwork exclusively in Catalan. Send your kids to school in Barcelona and they’ll be taught in Catalan, with a tiny percentage of time devoted to lessons in Spanish.

Many Catalans here are grudgingly admiring of Scotland’s ability to have negotiated its right to a referendum, but many fail to realise what a phenomenally long road it’s been to achieve it. It’s taken over 100 years to get a legally recognised referendum on Scottish independence, something which Catalan nationalists, keen to highlight the British government’s graciously accommodating stance towards the Scots in comparison to Spain’s absolutist intransigence, tend to overlook.

I remember a visit from SNP activists when I was in primary seven, aged 10, and one of my classmates took full advantage of the Q&A session to ask “Do you think Scotland will ever be independent in your lifetime?” This was the late 1980s, long before the days of devolution, and as the question reverberated around the room even a bunch of school kids knew that it was in all likelihood rhetorical.

Going from that to September’s referendum is not the result of an overnight negotiation.

Not to mention the absence of a written constitution in the UK, unlike in Spain, whose constitution specifically forbids autonomous regions from holding referenda on self-rule.

But perhaps the most obvious – and yet, inexplicably contentious – difference is in the current legal status of both territories. Scotland is a country, a constituent nation within a united kingdom of four countries – Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Get off the plane in Glasgow and you’ll be greeted proudly by signage welcoming you to “the best small country in the world”. You’re free to contest the adjectives, but the noun isn’t a matter of debate.

Catalonia’s status is rather different. Like it or not, vote for it or against it, Catalonia’s current legal situation is that of a region within a country. Which means that right from the get-go, the two situations are not on a level playing field.

So wha’s like us, then?

I have no idea which way Scotland is going to vote on the 18th of September, but despite not being able to participate, I am extremely happy that the referendum is going ahead. I sincerely hope Catalonia is afforded the same right, so that we can all just vote and move on.

If they are granted the right to a legally valid vote on independence, I expect to be allowed to take part in it, as a full-time citizen and taxpayer of Catalonia. At the moment, this is not on the cards. If not, the ridiculousness of the situation would be thrown into sharp relief – a Scot living in Catalonia who’s barred from voting in either referendum. Now there’s democracy.

Meanwhile, if it’s a no from Scottish voters in September, I suspect Catalans will be at best crestfallen and at worst completely crushed. Maybe they’d do well to remember the words of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet.

“Wha’s like us,
Damn few,
And they’re a’ deid”

 

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