SPANISH security forces have been called in to stop the Catalonia independence referendum as the unrest on the region’s streets mount.
The country’s government has also taken control of the region’s cops trying to stop voters reaching the ballot box by closing the polling stations.
Where is Catalonia and why does it want independence from Spain?
Catalonia in the northwest of Spain is home to 7.5million residents and the country’s second city, Barcelona.
It has a devolved government as well as its own language and culture.
In 2010 the country’s constitutional court ruled that references to the “nation of Catalonia” had “no legal validity” prompting huge protests.
The wealthy region is a major education hub as well as a centre for finance, technology and exports.
The region represents a fifth of Spain’s GDP and there is anger that the population pay more taxes to central government than are returned to the area.
When is the Catalonia independence referendum vote?
Catalonia’s separatist leaders plan to open the region’s polling stations on October 1 for what the Government has branded an “illegal” independence vote.
The Catalan leaders and the Spanish government have been at loggerheads for decades over campaigns for a split.
A legally binding vote is planned for October 1 2017, with officials insisting it will go ahead despite the Spanish government declaring it illegal and sending in police chiefs to stop it.
The promised referendum will ask Catalans to answer yes or no to a single question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?”
Despite a Government crackdown Catalonia’s regional foreign minister Raul Romeva said: “People will go out and vote en masse, peacefully on Sunday. I don’t have any doubt.”
What has the Spanish government said?
The Spanish constitutional court has declared the referendum illegal and launched a crackdown to destroy ballot papers and stop polling stations from opening.
State police have been sent to the region and local cops brought under the control of the Government.
Raids on Government offices have also seen 14 of the region’s officials arrested and 10 million ballot papers impounded.
Police have been ordered to seal off polling stations ahead of the vote with two thirds of the country’s riot cops on the streets.
Separatists have occupied dozens of schools designated as polling stations to stop police from closing them down.
Will the region vote to leave Spain?
Despite the Government crackdown many of Catalan residents are determined to cast a vote on Sunday, with activists protesting and taking photocopiers into the street to print more ballot papers.
In 2014 an informal referendum saw more than 80 per cent vote in favour of independence.
But, other polls have indicated that the 7.5 million Catalans are divided on the question of independence.
A majority of the region’s residents do however support holding a referendum — so the vote could go either way.
What would happen if Catalans voted for independence?
It is understood the ruling parties in the Catalonia region will declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of a promised referendum on October 1 if voters say “yes”.
But, the Spanish government would look to block independence as a result of what it has branded an “illegal” vote.
The Government clampdown has already seen widespread protests across the region and its seems whatever the result the independence debate will continue.