The Spanish government said on Friday it had passed measures to increase control over how Catalonia spends its money in an effort to block the regional government from using state cash to pay for an illegal independence referendum. Laura Frykberg reports.
If the Catalonian government needed a sign, to push ahead with its independence referendum. This was perhaps it. Thousands of people attending the official launch for next month's vote. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MARIA ASUNCION MORALES, 62-YEARS-OLD, RETIRED, SUPPORTER OF INDEPENDENCE, SAYING: "I think the referendum is the best way to know the opinion of the people, referendum is democracy, of course." The rally though, is unlikely to be music to the ears of Spain's federal government - which says the vote's illegal and won't be recognised. On Friday it passed measures to increase control over Catalonia's most essential public services. To - in its words - stop the region spending state cash on the campaign. (SOUNDBITE) (Catalan) PRESIDENT OF CATALONIA CARLES PUIGDEMONT SAYING: "They've said we can't do it, and they say we will not vote on October 1. But what do you think we will do on October 1? We will vote!" Catalonia has long fought for independence, the industrial region has a strong export sector and thriving tourism industry. It produces about a fifth of the country's total economic output, and says it receives a lot less back. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ROSER CAMPINYA, 29-YEARS-OLD, NURSE, SUPPORTER OF INDEPENDENCE, SAYING: "The Spanish government should open a dialogue, instead of blocking what are fighting for, and that is democracy. Everyone is free and can vote yes or no, but give us the right to choose." Another boost for the vote has come from the mayor of Barcelona, who's confirmed it will go ahead there. But those flying the flag of independence may be disappointed. Recent polls suggest less than 50 percent of the region's population will opt for full self-rule.