A symbolic vote designed to test the Catalan public’s appetite for independence from Spain is underway in the region.As many as 700,000 people are eligible to cast their ballots in 150 Catalan towns and villages. The vote comes as Spain’s Consitutional Court prepares to issue a ruling on the region’s statute of autonomy. In 2006, the regional government passed a law defining Catalonia as a nation. Organisers of the vote hope it will ratchet up the pressure for even more autonomy from Madrid but the campaign is not going down well in the Spanish capital. The Minister for Territorial Policy, Manuel Chaves said: “These are consultations that have no value, which can not be considered as a referendum, they are simply acts of political propaganda.” Catalan regional elections are due by the end of next year and a surge in separatist sentiment could prove problematic for the government. Catalonia accounts for about 25 per cent of Spain’s gross domestic product and has its own language and culture.