PRIME Minister Mariano Rajoy has urged Catalunya to return to ‘sanity’, as thousands across the region turn out to have their say on independence.
The disputed and non-binding poll – which has become known as 9-N – has gone ahead, despite having been ruled as illegal by the Spanish courts.
Scuffles have broken out as tensions run high, while large queues form outside the polling stations located across the region.
Rajoy has said the vote will have no effect and urged the region to return to ‘sanity’, but Catalan leader Artus Mas has warned against any attempt to disrupt it.
Voters are being asked whether they want a Catalan state, and whether that state should be independent.
More than 40,000 volunteers are helping to set up and run the informal exercise.
Unrest in Catalunya – a region of more than 7.5 million people – is due to the fact the region contributes more to the Spanish economy than it gets back through central government funds.
Mas said of the government’s attempt to stop the vote: “I don’t know what they will do, it does not depend on us, but if they have a minimum of common sense I think any action out of the ordinary would be a direct attack on democracy and a direct attack on fundamental rights.”
Rajoy, however, is demanding that the region take part in talks ‘within the legal framework of the constitution’, adding that the vote would be ‘neither a referendum nor a consultation nor anything of the sort’.
He said: “What is certain is that it will not have any effect.”