In a historic moment, sure to cause havoc in Madrid, Artur Mas, president of the Catalonia region of Spain, today signed a decree calling for an independence referendum to be held on November 9 this year.
"Like all the nations of the world, Catalonia has the right to decide its political future," said Artur Mas.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had already vowed to block this vote and has called a government meeting to be held Monday in order to provide a legal response to the announcement from Barcelona. The Spanish government is planning to challenge the upcoming vote in the constitutional court, as they say this is an illegal and unconstitutional move.
Carme Forcadell, leader of a pro-independence group in Catalonia who has been organizing rallies in favour of the move for the past three years, said, "Today is a day to celebrate. We are very happy and satisfied that president Mas has called the referendum."
In the Catalan parliament last week, 106 MPs voted in favor of the independence referendum with only 28 voting against.
Support for the idea of economically successful Catalonia seceding from Spain has grown over the last few years due to the economic hardships caused by the various budget cuts and austerity measures imposed by the Spanish government. According to a recent poll, almost 60 percent of Catalans would vote yes for independence.
According to The Local, the Catalonian economy is larger than the entire economy of Portugal, generating 20 percent of Spain's wealth.