Catalans to Form V for Vote to Demand Choice on Split From Spain

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People light torches before a march on the eve of "Diada de Catalunya" (Catalunya's National Day) in central Barcelona September 10, 2014. Albert Gea/Reuters

Hundreds of thousands of Catalans were to pack the streets of Barcelona on Thursday to demand the right to vote on a split from Spain, with hopes fueled by surging support for independence in Scotland.

About half a million of Catalans have signed up to dress in red and yellow, the colors of the Catalan flag, to form a "V" for "vote", a show of support for the perceived right to decide on their own status beyond Spain.

Catalonia is a wealthy region in Spain's northeast with its own language and culture.

Its long-standing independence movement has grown significantly over the last decade, exacerbated by Spain's economic crisis and what many see as a deaf-ears tactic by the Spanish government in Madrid.

The Catalan regional government, which has large degrees of autonomy within Spain, has called a referendum on November 9 over whether to separate. But the Madrid government says the vote is illegal and cannot go ahead.

Next week's referendum in Scotland on whether it should split from the United Kingdom has added fervor to the independence campaign in Catalonia.

Although the government in London opposes Scottish independence, it authorized it as says it will abide by the voters' decision.

"We want to decide our future. We don't understand why that is constantly denied. We look up to Scotland," said Victor Panyella, a 50-year-old professor who was wearing a yellow t-shirt with a red "V" on it.

"They are so lucky to belong to a country that allows that kind of vote. That is a big difference between the two of us, but we are linked by the excitement of deciding our future."

An official Catalan opinion poll shows support for an independent state tripled to 45.2 percent in March 2014 from 13.9 percent in March 2006, although many commentators in Madrid, where there is fierce opposition to Catalan nationalism, question the way such polls are carried out.

According to state pollster CIS this year, around 45 percent of Catalans support full independence, 20 percent would support a federal state, and 23 percent back an autonomous region.

"It would be the people's triumph if we were allowed to vote. If we live in democracy we should be allowed to vote," said Montserrat, a 58-year-old homemaker.

She said it was a different issue whether the vote was "yes" or "no", "but at least we should be allowed to vote, as the Scots will do."

Newsweek Insights: Read Newsweek's in-depth ebook on Scottish independence, Scotsman, Englishman: Two Friends, One Thorny Argument. Two writers go on a road trip to get to the bottom of the independence debate, but will their friendship survive the trip?