Spain lawmakers set to reject Catalan independence vote

President of Catalonia and leader of the Catalan Convergence and Unity party (CiU) Artur Mas casts his ballot at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 5, 2014 in a referendum by Barcelona football club partners for the renovation of the club's s
President of Catalonia and leader of the Catalan Convergence and Unity party (CiU) Artur Mas casts his ballot at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 5, 2014 in a referendum by Barcelona football club partners for the renovation of the club's stadium. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP 

MADRID (AFP) - Spanish lawmakers are expected on Tuesday to shoot down Catalonia's bid to hold a referendum on independence from Spain, despite huge support in the wealthy region for the poll.

Catalonia's president Artur Mas has vowed to go ahead with the referendum on Nov 9 even if Madrid rejects his request for the northeastern region to be granted the power to hold the ballot.

"If they say no, they will say no to a law. But they can't stop the will of the people of Catalonia," he told reporters on Sunday when asked about the looming vote in parliament.

The Catalan government's motion is fiercely opposed by Spain's ruling conservative Popular Party, which holds a majority in the parliament, as well as by the main opposition Socialist Party.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has insisted the vote would be illegal, since under Spain's constitution referendums on sovereignty must be held nationally and not regionally.

He has also warned that independence would be an economic disaster for both Spain and Catalonia, which is one of the Mediterranean country's most productive but also most indebted regions.

Rajoy is backed by Spain's Constitutional Court, which last month ruled that the move by Mas and other Catalan political leaders to hold the referendum was unconstitutional.

Still, the regional government faces strong pressure to push ahead with the referendum.

The Catalan National Assembly, a powerful pressure group, has gathered tens of thousands of signatures on a petition urging local leaders to "exhaust all of the paths" to a referendum.

"On November 9, we will vote. We will not renounce the referendum, because it is our dignity that is at stake, the dignity of Catalonia," said the president of the group, Carme Forcadell.

The Catalan National Assembly on Saturday unveiled a "roadmap", which calls for the region to declare independence from Spain by April 23, 2015 - the feast day of Saint George, the patron saint of Catalonia.

On September 11, Catalonia's national day, hundreds of thousands of people formed a human chain across the region to demand independence in a rally organised by the group.

This year the assembly plans to create another chain in Barcelona in the shape of the letter "V" for "Victory", exactly one year before the day it wants to hold a referendum on a new constitution for Catalonia.

The date commemorates the conquest of Barcelona by Spanish king Philip V's forces in 1714, which many Catalans say marked the end of centuries of autonomy.