“That”, said Rhodri, “is what a mass movement in support of an independence referendum ought to look like.” In comparison, we in Wales can only dream of the time when we might have mass support for the concept of independence along with a political movement committed to achieving it.
I suspect that part of what makes the Catalan movement so strong is precisely the way that they been told that they 'cannot' have independence. The establishment in the UK (in modern times, at least) has never been so blunt and obstinate in its refusal – tolerance is sometimes more effective than oppression.
In the mid-1970s I was the Plaid Cymru guest speaker at an SNP rally. One of my fellow speakers was Jordi Pujol (who later became president of the Generalitat of Catalunya, a post he held for 23 years). At the time, he wasn’t arguing for independence. Not necessarily because he didn’t want to, but because it was a crime against the state in Franco’s Spain to even put the case, and he had served a couple of years in prison already for his political activity. He argued instead for much more autonomy within a federal state.
With the dawning of a more democratic Spain, people have been freer and more confident in putting the arguments; arbitrary imprisonment is no longer something that they have to fear. But one major remnant of the Franco regime remains, in this context – the legal fiction that independence is impossible because the constitution forbids it.
Laws, processes, and even constitutions put in place by people can survive only as long as the people allow them to. The Spanish central authorities will, no doubt, continue to say “no”; but faced with a movement for independence which can mobilise 1½ million people – 20% of the entire population – in a single demonstration, they’ll need a better argument than the wording of the constitution.