Barcelona, the capital of the region of Catalonia, has become the focus of a legal battle with the Spanish government.
Separatist parties have agreed a date and two questions to put to Catalonians on independence for the region.
The poll is scheduled for November 9 next year when voters will be asked if they want Catalonia to be a state and if they want it to be independent.
“There will come a time for the institutions of the state of Spain to negotiate with Catalan institutions how to carry out this referendum within the existing legal frameworks, which are many,” explained Artur Mas, President of Catalonia.
The Spanish government is emphatic and says the referendum is illegal and will not take place. The ruling People’s Party and the main opposition Socialists have slammed independence talk.
“The government guarantees there won’t be any illegal action in Spain. The realisation of a referendum of this nature will be against the constitution, against the statute of autonomy of Catalonia. The president of the Catalonian government is the state representative in Catalonia and therefore he is bound to comply with the law,” stressed Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon.
Supporters of independence formed a 400 kilometre human chain round Catalonia in September. It is the richest and most highly industrialised region in Spain.
Independence demands have been fuelled in part by the recent economic crisis. Opinion polls suggest Catalonians are evenly split on the subject.