Catalans rally for independence referendum from Spain

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Catalans hold Catalonia pro-independence flags during celebrations of Catalonia National Day (Diada) in Barcelona on 11 September 2014Image source, AFP
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Thousands of Catalans took part in the demonstration, held on Catalonia's National Day

Thousands of Catalans have rallied in Barcelona, Spain, demanding the right to hold a referendum on independence.

Participants, waving Catalan flags and wearing the flag's red and yellow colours, stood in a V-shape formation, indicating their desire for a vote.

Protesters were energised by Scotland's forthcoming independence referendum - and many also waved the Scottish flag.

The regional government has called a referendum for 9 November. The Spanish government says the vote is illegal.

"We want to decide our future. We don't understand why that is constantly denied," Victor Panyella, a professor taking part in the rally, told Reuters.

Ana Melendez, another participant, told the BBC she was "jealous" of Scotland, which has a referendum on independence from the rest of the United Kingdom on 18 September.

Catalonia is one of Spain's richest and most highly industrialised regions, and also one of the most independent-minded.

Image source, Reuters
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Participants formed a large "V" in central Barcelona
Image source, AFP
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The Scottish flag could also be glimpsed among the Catalonia flags in the crowd

Until recently, few Catalans had wanted full independence, but Spain's painful economic crisis has seen a surge in support for separation.

The national government is opposed to any move towards independence. According to the Spanish constitution, the central government's blessing is required to make a referendum legal.

At the scene: Tom Burridge, BBC News, Barcelona

Image source, AFP

On Catalonia's national day, or La Diada, as it's called here, a huge crowd formed the thin red and yellow stripes of the Catalan flag, creating a giant 'V' for vote.

Look closer and you could see an endless number of pro-independence Catalan flags, which have a blue triangle and a silver star.

There were also a handful of Scottish flags fluttering in the wind.

Each year, the atmosphere at the La Diada celebrations is electric and it's easy to imagine the event being infectious for some.

The Catalan national anthem rings out, as do the deafening chants of "independence". People's dogs wear flags and people's faces are painted, party-style, in the Catalan colours.

The true numbers present in Barcelona today will be disputed, but a large chunk of the Catalan population turned out.

However another large number did not. The opinion polls are complex depending on the question, but if it's a simple "yes/no" to independence, the Catalan public are pretty evenly split.