The United Kingdom’s response to the Scottish independence movement should serve as an example as the crisis in Catalonia continues to unfold. The United Kingdom allowed for a Scottish referendum and in spite of the persuasive campaigning by Scotland’s charismatic first Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland decided to remain part of the United Kingdom. Spain’s prosperous Catalonia region unilaterally declared independence after a referendum was held by Catalonian separatists yielding a majority vote for independence. Catalonia’s ousted President Carles Puigdemont and several of his ministers fled to Belgium after being charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. Although Spain may have been able to effectively side line the principal galvanizing players of the independence movement, the fear is that this struggle could take on a darker, more divisive tone in the future. Allowing Scotland to determine its future proved to be a well-played gamble for the UK. Perhaps driven by the searing experience of Northern Ireland where direct rule ultimately failed and resulted in decades of bloodshed, widespread civil disobedience and the formation of terrorist groups, Westminster chose the path of dialogue and democracy. The UK government’s deft handling of the Scottish independence movement has been so successful that even though Edinburgh is calling for a second referendum, secessionist sentiment among Scots seems to have lost its momentum. Similarly, if the Spanish government had allowed a legal referendum to be held on the question of independence in Catalonia, it is doubtful whether the independence vote would have won. Recently, tens of thousands gathered to rally for Spanish unity in the city of Barcelona. Although Spain may have been able to effectively sideline the principal galvanizing players of the independence movement, the fear is that this struggle could take on a darker, more divisive tone in the future However, there appears to be a trend developing in Europe which governments cannot ignore – the desire for greater autonomy from central government. Last month, the Lombardy and Veneto regions of Italy voted for increased self-governing powers. Lombardy’s leader Roberto Maroni was quick to differentiate between the Italian referendum and the crisis in Spain, “We remain inside the Italian nation with more autonomy while Catalonia wants to become the 29th state of the European Union. We, no. Not for now.” Though the outcome of a referendum may be unpalatable for many, the breakup of historic unions, loss of power, resources, electoral constituencies and national identity, crushing moves towards self-determination only leads to disastrous consequences. As in Kashmir, the brutal suppression of the people’s’ right for self-determination has allowed a separatist insurgency to develop. Authorities have routinely responded with violence resulting in a conflict that has claimed several thousands of lives. Through the decades, Catalonia’s calls for independence have always been peaceful. Accusations of excessive use of force by the Spanish police following Catalonia’s referendum is a reminder for countries dealing with issues of self-determination versus territorial integrity. The Kashmir issue is illustrative of the fact that rejecting the path of dialogue in favour of heavy-handed measures only strengthens resistance, making the demands for self-determination even more clamorous. The writer is the founding editor of Blue Chip magazine. She tweets @MashaalGauhar Published in Daily Times, November 4th 2017.