Catalans cheer as Rajoy slams independence vote

Celebrations in the streets of Barcelona contrast starkly with anger from Madrid, where Spanish president Mariano Rajoy is slamming Catalonia's independence vote as an illegal affront to the rule of law.

BARCELONA/MADRID (Reuters) - Cheers rang out in Catalonia as vote counting began after a violent day at the polls, where locals cast their ballots on independence from Spain.

Crowds gathered in Barcelona chanted "we have voted". 

The opposite message to that is from Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who spoke from Madrid on Sunday (Oct 1): "At this hour, I can tell you in the strongest terms what you already know and what we have seen throughout this day. There has not been a referendum on self-determination in Catalonia today."

Rajoy has slammed the vote - calling it illegal and an attack on the rule of law, and riot police were heavy handed.

Nearly 800 people have reportedly been injured after authorities clashed with people queuing up to vote. Batons and rubber bullets were used.

Police even smashed their way into voting stations, searching for ballot boxes to confiscate.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont says Rajoy is bringing shame on his country.

"The exterior image of the Spanish state keeps getting worse and today they have reached embarrassing levels that will always be always remembered," he said.

As the votes are tallied, Puigdemont has opened the door to a unilateral declaration of independence for the northwestern region. Regional officials say that more than 90 per cent of people have voted in favour of breaking away.

But as Catalans celebrate what has become Spain's worst constitutional crisis in decades, the fight for an independence is far from over.

On top of the blunt rhetoric from Madrid, voter turnout of just 42 per cent could well lead to questions about the legitimacy of this violent and controversial election.