Catalonia to call self-rule vote ‘this week’

Catalonia's nationalist government said on Tuesday it will "this week" call a non-binding referendum on independence from Spain on November 9th, denying it would bring forward regional elections if the poll was blocked by Madrid.

Catalonia to call self-rule vote 'this week'
The President of Catalonia, Artur Mas. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Catalonia's regional parliament on Friday overwhelmingly approved a law which its leaders say will allow them to hold a non-binding "consultation" on independence, just one day after Scottish voters rejected independence in a referendum authorized by Britain.

Catalan president Artur Mas now must sign a decree formally calling the independence vote in the rich northeastern region which is planned for November 9th.

"This will be done this week, in the coming days," Catalan government spokesman Francesc Homs told a news conference in Barcelona.

Spain's central government has branded the planned vote on independence illegal and has vowed to defend the unity of Spain.

It said it will block the ballot by appealing to the Constitutional Court as soon as Mas signs the decree.

Mas has suggested that if the central government blocks the independence vote he would call early regional elections in Catalonia which would act as a plebiscite on the issue.

But Homs rejected this scenario, saying there would be no early elections "on November 9 or after".

"The only scenario we are working on is that of a consultation and not early elections," he added ,after Spanish centre-right newspaper El Mundo on Tuesday claimed delays to call of the vote could mean regional elections would be called if the November 9th vote was blocked by Madrid. 

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona on September 11th, Catalonia's national day, to demand a vote on independence.

Polls show that a majority of Catalans want the chance to have their say in a referendum, while support for independence hovers at around half the electorate.

But less than one quarter of all Catalans, 23 percent, believe the referendum should go ahead if the Constitutional Court declares it to be illegal, a Metroscopia poll published in daily newspaper El Pais on September 7th found.

The poll showed 45 percent of those surveyed believed Catalonia should respect the decision of the court while 25 percent said the region should look for other legal ways to redraw its relationship with Spain.

With an economy roughly the size of Portugal's, Catalonia — a region of 7.5 million or 16 percent of the Spanish population — has long been an economic powerhouse in a country where just under a quarter of people are unemployed.

But a growing number of Catalans resent the redistribution of their taxes by the central government in Madrid to other parts of Spain and believe the region would be better off on its own.

Proud of their distinct Catalan language and culture, Catalonia formally adopted the status of a "nation" in 2006 but Spain's Constitutional Court later overruled that claim.

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