Spain to block Catalonia independence referendum

A man with a pro-independence Catalan flag walks in front of people forming a human chain to mark the "Diada de Catalunya" (Catalunya"s National Day) in central Barcelona In September pro-independence Catalans formed a 400km (250-mile) human chain across the region

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The Spanish government has vowed to block plans by parties in Catalonia to hold a referendum on independence on 9 November of next year.

"The poll will not be held," Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon told journalists moments after Catalonia's President, Artur Mas, announced a deal.

Mr Mas said agreement had been reached on the date and on two questions.

Voters would be asked if they wanted Catalonia to be a state and if they wanted it to be an independent state.

Mr Mas announced that an agreement had been reached in principle and had still to be approved formally by the parties internally.


So the Catalan Government has set a date for when it plans to hold a vote in Catalonia, with two questions, the second of which implies, if a majority of people vote "yes", that Catalonia would no longer be part of Spain.

However. the Spanish Popular Party led-government, as well as the main opposition Socialist Party have already said this can not happen.

Catalan pro-independence parties, which hold a majority of parliamentary seats in Catalonia, still sound determined to hold the vote, come what may.

In that case, the vote might more accurately be described as a "popular consultation", as, under the current terms of the Spanish constitution, the result would not be legally binding.

If a majority did vote yes, to both proposed questions (and recent opinion polls are far from clear whether that would the case), then what would happen next in Catalonia is far from clear.

The Catalan government has hinted in the past, that, with popular support, it might be prepared to make a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain, if all other avenues have been exhausted.

Both Spain's ruling conservatives, the Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and the Socialist opposition have long made it clear that they oppose a referendum.

Under the current Spanish constitution, referendums can only be called by the national government in Madrid, not by the governments of Spain's 17 autonomous communities, of which Catalonia is one, the BBC's Tom Burridge reports from Madrid.

Mr Mas has said that "there is time to comply with laws and democratic processes".

But for that to happen, Spain's national parliament would need to approve a change in the Spanish constitution before next November, and that looks impossible given the opposition in Madrid, our correspondent adds.

Catalonia is one of Spain's most developed regions, with a population of 7.5 million.

It already has a wide degree of autonomy but the recent economic crisis has fuelled Catalan nationalism.

In September supporters of independence formed a human chain across the region.

Mr Mas has previously said that if Madrid blocks a referendum, he will turn regional elections - due in 2016 - into a vote on independence.

Opinion polls suggest Catalans are evenly split over independence.

The EU and Nato have warned that Catalonia would be excluded if it broke away from Spain.

Nationalists in another Spanish region, the Basque Country, won regional elections there last year.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    I'm a Spaniard, I'll try to put some sense. According to the 1978 Constitution, approved by all Spaniards (incl. Catalans), national sovereignty resides in the whole of Spain. That means if Catalonia wants to secede, it has to be approved by all Spaniards, Catalans and not-Catalans. Anything else is against the law. And let's stop saying we're all Francoists. He died 40 years ago. We've moved on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    I am Catalan as well. We only want to vote. We are asking for our right to democracy and Rajoy is denying that to us, hiding under a 1978 constitution. That's serious and we need other countries and citizens to understand that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    Our fight for independence is being led by the people of Catalonia, not by power-seeking politicians. That's why we will win, there is no doubt. Spain does not accept the right to self-determination and does not accept democracy. Everyone should know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Do the people of Catalonia really want independence or is it, as usual, just a few power hungry individuals wanting to strut on the world stage?

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    In a time when we need to abolish borders, setting up a new border is ridiculous. Catalonia should not get independent of Spain, Spain and the rest of the EU and the world should unite into a single country!

    We need to abolish all states instead of creating new ones.


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