Is Catalonia a nation or a nationality, or is Spain the only Spanish nation?

Is Catalonia a nation or is Spain the only nation in, well, Spain? The Spanish right has a clear idea of the right answer; some Catalans and Spanish socialists think they have a different one.

Is Catalonia a nation, a nationality or is Spain the only nation in Spain?

Spain’s Constitutional Court will soon tell us what it thinks and attempt to set the rules for the ‘what is Spain’ debate for the next few years.

According to El País today, Spain’s Constitutional Court is almost ready to rule that: “the only nation is the Spanish one and that Catalonia may not have national symbols unless they are related to Catalan nationality and not the word ‘nation’.

Confused? Me too. How can you have a nationality and not a nation? How can you have nations within nations? How can national symbols be related only to a ‘nationality’ and not, at the same time, to a ‘nation’? Shall it be a ‘nationality flag’ instead of a ‘national flag’, a ‘nationality anthem’ instead of a ‘national anthem’?

The judges are apparently working away hard on this one. The relevant references seem to be articles 8.1 and 1 of the Catalan Statute text and article 2 of the Spanish Constitution.

Article 1 of the Catalan Statute states that: “Catalonia, as a nationality, exercises self-government as an Autonomous Community according to the (Spanish) Constitution and via the present Statute, which is its basic institutional rule.

Article 8.1 of the Catalan Statute states that: “Catalonia, defined as a nationality in Article 1, has as its national symbols a flag, a bank holiday and an anthem.

Article 2 of the Spanish Consitution states that: “The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, a common and indivisible homeland which belongs to all Spaniards, and recognises and guarantees the right to autonomy of the nationalities and regions which constitute it and the solidarity between them all.

Furthermore, defining ‘Catalonia as a nation’ in the preamble would not, despite the most fervent wishes of the Catalan Parliament, imply any equality with the idea of the Spanish nation or infer any sovereignty.

The Spanish dictionary defines ‘nation’ and ‘nationality’ as:


(From lat. natĭo, -ōnis).

1. f. The group of inhabitants of a country ruled by the same government.

2. f. The territory of that country.

3. f. The group of people from the same place and who generally speak the same language and share a common heritage.


1. f. Condition and peculiar character of the peoples and inhabitants of an nation.

2. f. The very state of the person born or naturalised in a nation.

3. f. Spain. Autonomous community which, in its Statute, is accorded a special historical and cultural identity.

4. f. Spain. Official name for some Spanish autonomous communities.

It’s now no clearer and we can more easily see why it’s taken some of Spain’s most learned legal minds three years and such hard work over the Christmas holidays to try and untangle this to the satisfaction of all concerned.

I’ll let you know what they decide when the judgement is published. Expect it to be big news in Spain towards the middle or the end of the month.