Spain's Catalonia to take step for secession vote

A day after Scotland rejected breaking away from Britain, the regional parliament in Spain's Catalonia was expected Friday to grant its leader the power to call a secession referendum that the central government in Madrid says would be illegal.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to prevent the Nov. 9 vote that separatist Catalans want to hold in the wealthy Mediterranean region of 7.5 million people.

He didn't mention the situation in Catalonia in taped remarks Friday with his response to Scotland's vote, but congratulated "Scottish citizens who yesterday decided in a clear an unequivocal manner to continue being part of the United Kingdom, and consequently, the European Union."

Spain's constitution doesn't allow referendums that don't include all Spaniards and experts say Spain's Constitutional Court would rule the vote illegal.

Unlike the Scotland vote, the referendum in Catalonia wouldn't result in secession. It would ask Catalans whether they favor secession. If the answer is Yes, Catalan regional leader Artur Mas has said that would give him a political mandate to negotiate a path toward independence.

The prospect of an independent Scotland captivated European separatists in addition to the Catalans who want to form their own nation. They include pro-independence Basques in northern Spain; Corsicans who want to break away from France; Italians from several northern regions; and Flemish speakers in Belgium demanding more autonomy, independence or union with the Netherlands.

Scotland's rejection of independence is a disappointment for the European separatists, but "does not mean the end of nationalist aspirations," said Marc Hooghe, a political science professor at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

"There is no decisive outcome at all. You might compare (it) with a soccer game (that) ends in a draw, and we go to extra time," he said. "But the nationalists have missed their once in a lifetime opportunity ... the Scots could have led the way for other regions."