MADRID (REUTERS) - Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Wednesday (Nov 11) that his government had filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court as it seeks to invalidate a move by the Catalan assembly to press head with independence.
Catalonia's regional Parliament voted on Monday to start a process towards secession, with the aim of forming a Catalan republic within 18 months.
"It's not just a reaction to a motion passed in Parliament, this is about defending a whole country," Mr Rajoy told a news conference after a Cabinet meeting, adding the north-eastern region would not be allowed to split from Spain.
"This is a blatant disregard for the state's institutions. They are trying to do away with democracy. I will not allow it," he said.
Lawyers for the state have asked the court to "immediately suspend this resolution and all of its effects", he added.
The resolution has the backing of Catalan President Artur Mas' Together for Yes coalition and the smaller far-left separatist CUP party, which together won a majority in the regional assembly for the first time in a Sept 27 regional election.
The court will begin examining the government's appeal at 4.30pm local time, a judicial source said.
The court is widely expected to strike down the resolution, the latest in a series of steps to break away from Spain that have gained momentum over the last three years.
The row over Catalonia has escalated dramatically with weeks to go to a national election in December, dominating political campaigns as parties such as Mr Rajoy's centre-right People's Party (PP) call for Spanish unity.
Spain's Constitution does not allow any region to break away and if the court agrees to process the central government's appeal later on Wednesday the Catalan assembly's resolution will be suspended for several months.
If Catalan leaders continue to press ahead with the independence bid under those circumstances, it could further drive up tensions between Barcelona and Madrid since Mr Rajoy vowed to take more steps if needed against local representatives.
Parties favouring a split from Spain won a majority of seats in the Catalan Parliament in September, though they fell short of half the vote.
Mr Mas, who ran the Catalan government during years of economic crisis that saw the independence movement swell, is fighting for political survival, amid leadership squabbles in the pro-secession camp.
Mr Mas lost a Catalan assembly vote on Tuesday to be reinstated as regional president, though further rounds of voting will be held.
Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people with its own language that accounts for a fifth of Spain's economic output, already enjoys a large degree of autonomy in education, health and policing.
But it is insisting on even greater autonomy, particularly where taxation is concerned, estimating that it gives more to the central government than it receives.