A month ago, Catalonia held an election, giving pro-independence parties a clear majority. Faced with Spain's refusal to allow the region to hold a referendum on secession - something supported by the vast majority of Catalans - they held one by proxy by running on a platform of unilateral secession. And having won a mandate, they've now begun that process:
Catalonia has put itself on a collision course with the Madrid government after the newly elected parliament put forward a resolution calling for “the beginning of a process of the creation of an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic”.
Effectively a unilateral declaration of independence, the resolution has already been condemned by the non-secessionist Catalan parties as a coup d’etat.
In Madrid the ruling People’s party government and the Socialist opposition both issued statements condemning the move.
The prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, called it a provocation and said: “As long as I am president of a nation of free and equal citizens, justice will prevail over unreason.”
Big deal. The question is what he's going to do about it - and more importantly, whether it will work. Spain has already tried prosecuting Catalan government officials for their role in running an unofficial independence poll; that backfired. Further prosecutions will likely have the same result; interfering in Catalonia's regional government or trying to suppress their culture would be worse. As with Scotland, the desire for independence is partly fed by the opposition of central government, and the more Spain objects, the stronger the independence movement becomes. The quickest way to delay secession would be to actually let Catalans vote on it. But that would yield the independence movement's central claim - that it is a question for Catalans and Catalans alone - and is simply unacceptable to the unreconstructed Francoists of the Spanish People's Party.