FIERCE debate surrounds the independence campaigns in Scotland and Catalonia – and next week Britain’s leading historian of Spain will join experts in Aberdeen to consider crisis and survival in political unions from a historical perspective.

Oxford’s Sir John Elliott will explore the deep roots of one of Europe’s most pressing contemporary issues in a free public lecture on Tuesday, while the following day there will be a book launch and a roundtable event to consider the differences between the Scottish and Catalan experiences.

The events form part of an international symposium organised by the University of Aberdeen entitled Staying Together? Crisis And Survival In Political Unions Since 1469.

It will bring together historians, political scientists and journalists to discuss the resilience and persistence of political unions across the last five centuries – giving a historical context to the hotly contested issues.

Professor Robert Frost, from Aberdeen’s School of History, said: “The problems of political unions have dominated the news agenda in recent years.

“The UK Government is currently trying to extract itself from one union while trying to preserve another union, while the question of independence dominates politics in both Scotland and Catalonia in the wake of the recent referenda.

“Many people have deplored the content and tone of the debate on these vital constitutional issues and we hope that these events will help to offer a more reasoned and scholarly perspective to those interested in the wider context of the debate.”

Aberdeen University offers a range of expertise on the subject through the work of three of its research centres – the Research Institute of Irish & Scottish Studies, the Centre for Early Modern Studies, and the Aberdeen/Edinburgh Centre on Constitutional Change.

Elliott, recognised as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the history of Spain, will open the event with a keynote public lecture on Scotland and Catalonia.

The symposium will close with the public roundtable event to launch his latest book, Scots & Catalans.

This will then be discussed by journalists and commentators Iain Macwhirter, Alex Massie and Peter Geoghegan.

Frost added: “Sir John Elliott, the doyen among Britain’s historians of Spain, will deliver a public lecture comparing and contrasting the historical background to the Scottish and Catalan experiences of union.

“This is sure to be a fascinating discussion and we look forward to welcoming Sir John and our other guests to the university for the Scottish launch of the book.”

News of the events came as Roger Torrent, speaker of the Catalan Parliament, called on the pro-independence camp to do its best to move from an “impossible referendum” to one that was unavoidable.

He suggested to the Forum Europa that Spanish president Pedro Sánchez agree to allow a vote in which people would be asked about both independence and Madrid’s proposal for Catalonia – similar to devo max – so that both proposals could be compared.

He said: “If he has a proposal, let him bring it to a vote along with independence.

“Or is the problem that Sánchez is afraid of the answer? Is he afraid of asking citizens?”

Torrent said Sánchez had to decide whether he should tackle Catalonia’s challenge while considering the next election, future generations and a resolution to the conflict.

The Spanish leader said last week that a referendum might be possible for Catalonia, but only on its self-governance, not independence.

Torrent said an agreed and binding referendum was “the best, and maybe the only way to solve the conflict”.

He called on the pro-indy camp to launch “all the elements of peaceful and democratic pressure” to persuade Madrid.

Tuesday evening’s lecture will take place in the Sir Duncan Rice Library and Wednesday evening’s discussion and book launch will be in the Linklater Rooms at the King’s College campus.