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Catalonia’s planned independence referendum has been suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

Spain’s Constitutional Court said it first needed to consider arguments whether the November 9 vote breached the country’s constitution.

It acted on a request from the Spanish central government in Madrid.

Catalonia leader Artur Mas signed a decree on September 27 calling for the referendum.

However, Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy told reporters that the vote was not “compatible with the Spanish constitution”.

“Nobody and nothing will be allowed to break up Spain.”

Mariano Rajoy was speaking in a televised statement to the nation after holding an emergency cabinet meeting.

Catalonia's planned independence referendum has been suspended by Spain's Constitutional Court

Catalonia’s planned independence referendum has been suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court

Hundreds of thousands of Catalans joined a protest in Barcelona recently, calling for their right to vote.

Unhappy at Spain’s refusal to give Catalans more powers, protesters have been energized by Scotland’s recent independence referendum and many also waved the Scottish flag.

Catalonia’s 7.5 million inhabitants make up approximately 16 % of the population of Spain. Yet it is one of Spain’s richest and most highly industrialized regions, as well as one of its most independent-minded.

Spain’s deepening economic crisis, though, has seen a surge in support for separation.

A recent poll for Spain’s El Pais newspaper showed that 45% of Catalans were in favor of suspending the referendum if the Constitutional Court declared it illegal.

Only 23% would like the referendum to go ahead regardless, the survey suggested.

Artur Mas has only recently become a supporter of full independence. Since 2007, he has spearheaded a push to revitalize Catalan nationalism known as the Refoundation of Catalanism.

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Artur Mas, the president of the Spanish region of Catalonia, has signed a decree calling for a referendum on independence.

Artur Mas wants Catalonia to hold a Scottish-style vote on November 9, but does not have the backing of the central government in Madrid.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said he will block any referendum.

Catalonia, which includes Barcelona, is one of Spain’s richest and most highly industrialized regions, and also one of the most independent-minded.

On September 19, Catalonian lawmakers voted by a margin of 106 to 28 in favor of authorizing the referendum, known locally as a “consultation”.

Mariano Rajoy and the Spanish government believe any vote would be illegal.

President Artur Mas has signed a decree calling referendum on Catalonia's independence

President Artur Mas has signed a decree calling referendum on Catalonia’s independence

The prime minister is expected to take action at a special cabinet meeting early next week, and is likely to take the dispute to the country’s Constitutional Court.

However, President Artur Mas says he can use local laws to hold a vote in a matter of weeks.

Artur Mas has previously insisted that the pro-independence movement would prevail, even if it faces stiff opposition.

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

There is resentment over the proportion of Catalan taxes used to support poorer regions.

The pro-independence movement in Catalonia believes that the region can go ahead with the independence vote after the decree is signed.

Earlier this month hundreds of thousands of Catalans formed a “V” for “vote” along two of Barcelona’s main roads calling for their right to vote.

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The Catalan parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favor of giving its regional president the power to call an independence “consultation”.

Spain’s government opposes the Catalan “consultation” vote and is taking the dispute to the Constitutional Court.

The move comes a day after Scotland voted against independence from the United Kingdom.

Catalan President Artur Mas said Scotland’s referendum had “shown the way” for Catalonian independence.

Artur Mas is preparing Catalonia for a similar vote on November 9, with large-scale support for independence from Spain.

Catalonian lawmakers voted by a margin of 106 to 28 in favor of authorizing the consultation.

Spain’s Constitutional Court is expected to consider the Catalan case on September 23 and could suspend the region’s vote on independence.

Artur Mas earlier said Scotland’s rejection of independence was “not a setback” and that having the chance to vote was “the key point”.

Catalonia has a large-scale support for independence from Spain

Catalonia has a large-scale support for independence from Spain (photo AFP)

“This is a powerful and strong message that the UK is sending to the entire world – that if there is such a conflict elsewhere in the world you have the right way to try to resolve these differences,” he said.

Scotland “has shown the way to others – the Catalan process continues”, he added.

“My main commitment is to… organize the referendum and let the Catalan people vote,” Artur Mas said.

“If they think in Madrid that by using legal frameworks they can stop the will of the Catalan people, they are wrong.”

Spain’s PM Mariano Rajoy warmly welcomed the Scottish “No” to independence.

“With their decision, the Scottish have avoided the grave economic, social, institutional and political consequences that would have resulted from its separation from the United Kingdom and Europe,” he said.

“They chose between integration and segregation, between isolation and openness, between stability and uncertainty, between security and a real risk, and they have chosen the most favorable option for everyone, for them, for the rest of the British citizens and for Europe.”

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

Until recently, few Catalans had wanted full independence, but Spain’s painful economic crisis has seen a surge in support for separation, correspondents say. There is resentment over the proportion of Catalan taxes used to support poorer regions.

Artur Mas can count on support from 79% of the deputies in Catalonia’s parliament, the Spanish news agency EFE reports.

The pro-independence movement in Catalonia believes that once Artur Mas signs the new law, the region can go ahead with the independence vote.

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