Dec 13 - Catalonia's separatist parties announce November 9 next year as the date for a referendum on breaking away from Spain - only for Spanish prime minister Rajoy to declare that such a vote would be 'unconstitutional'. David Pollard asks whether the two sides are now set on a collision course.
It's almost everywhere. The Catalan flag - symbol of regional pride and separatist defiance towards Spain's Madrid government. That defiance voiced in a huge show of support on Catalonia National Day. Now to be put to a vote on independence, according to the region's head of government, Artur Mas. (SOUNDBITE) (Catalan) HEAD OF CATALAN GOVERNMENT, ARTUR MAS, SAYING: "We know that what we have in our hands has very big historical significance." November 9 next year is the date. That is, if the vote goes ahead. Because almost as soon as it was announced, Madrid stepped in. Prime minister, Mariano Rajoy. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) SPANISH PRIME MINISTER, MARIANO RAJOY, SAYING: "I want to make it very clear. That referendum will not take place. It is unconstitutional and will not take place." It may go ahead anyway. Even illegal, it could prove a powerful weapon to exert pressure on Madrid - and a tricky electoral issue for Rajoy. Calls for independence have grown as the Spanish economy has shrunk. Cuts in public spending hitting a region that accounts for a fifth of Spain's output. Mike Ingram, BGC Partners. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MIKE INGRAM, BGC PARTNERS, SAYING: "The Catalonians themselves are fed up with having to pay on a net basis money into the central government. We know that the Spanish budget deficit is proving to be intractable. It's likely that more austerity measures are going to be coming down the pipe over the next few years. And that's only going to make the source of tension between Madrid and the Catalans even greater." 46 per cent of Catalans favour separatism versus 42 per cent who don't according to a recent poll by the El Pais newspaper. Although the same poll showed that Catalans would prefer more autonomy over outright independence.