Millions of Catalans voted in the region's symbolic referendum on independence from Spain, despite opposition from Madrid. Ciara Lee asks if a legitimate referendum is now more likely.
They voted in the millions - Catalonia's symbolic referendum on independence from Spain. Any formal vote remains blocked by the Spanish government, but many in the wealthy northeastern region feel the stage is now set for change. (SOUNDBITE) (Catalan) BARCELONA RESIDENT, INMACULADA FORNOS, SAYING: "I think all Catalans showed dignity. In the twenty first century, no bully from elsewhere is going to tell us not to vote." (SOUNDBITE) (Catalan) BARCELONA RESIDENT, ALBERT LABASTIDA, SAYING: "Catalans feel the need to be heard. That feeling has not been recognised by the Spanish government and now we have shown Spain and the rest of the world we want to have a say." Catalonia is home to 7.5 million people - that's 16 percent of Spain's population. Opinion polls show around half are in favour of independence and eighty percent want to see a formal vote on the issue. Madrid argues the whole country should have a say in any decision. But pro-independence organisations say the big turnout was significant. Jordi Matas is a Professor at the University of Barcelona . (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) PROFESSOR OF LAW AND POLITICAL SCIENCES AT UNIVERSITAT DE BARCELONA, JORDI MATAS, SAYING: "Considering the difficulties of organising the 'consultation', the fact that two million people voted is a success and therefore it must be understood like that. It should be a sign to Catalan and Spanish politicians to make a move and negotiate." Catalonia accounts for one-fifth of Spain's economic output and has its own distinct culture and language. Recent years of recession have fuelled the breakaway movement. And, although the country is now getting back on track - outperforming its euro zone peers in the third quarter, with a 0.5 percent rise in GDP - BNY Mellon's Simon Derrick says it's not out of the woods just yet. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF CURRENCY STRATEGIST, HEAD OF THE BNY MELLON MARKETS STRATEGY TEAM, SIMON DERRICK, SAYING: "There's still an awful lot of concern about the outlook for the economy. I think more broadly the main issue is if we have a resumption of hostilities in Ukraine that would feed through into further weakness in the euro zone economy generally. That might hit Spain back from here. I would be concerned that perhaps we are being a little too optimistic." In September, Catalonians were buoyed by the impact of the Scottish independence campaign. The ballot comes after two years of escalating tension between the central and the regional governments. But its informal vote at least, passed off peacefully.