Madrid: Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Tuesday that a referendum on Catalan independence planned for November 9 will not take place because it would be illegal.
"This referendum can`t take place, it is not legal," he told parliament during an annual state of the nation debate.
"It is the entire Spanish people who have the capacity to decide what Spain is. No one can unilaterally deprive the entire Spanish people of the right to decide on their future."
Catalan political chief Artur Mas`s ruling coalition and a majority of other parties in the northeastern Spanish region are calling for a November 9, 2014 referendum that would ask voters two questions:
- "Do you think that Catalonia should be a State, yes or no?"
- "If yes, do you want that State to be independent, yes or no?"
Many Catalans point to Scotland, whose leaders have called a referendum for September on independence from Britain -- a move authorised by the British government.
Proud of their distinct language and culture and fed up after five years of stop-start recession, many of the 7.5 million people in Catalonia want to redraw the map of Spain, saying they feel short-changed by the central government which redistributes their taxes.
Catalonia accounts for one-fifth of Spain`s total output and an even greater share of its exports.
A recent poll by the Catalonia Centre for Opinion Studies showed that those favouring greater autonomy or outright independence far outweighed those who wanted to stick with Spain.
On September 11 last year, Catalonia`s national day, hundreds of thousands of Catalans massed in a vast human chain stretching across the region to demand independence.
The national day recalls the conquest of Barcelona by Spanish king Philip V`s forces in 1714.