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>> Pro-independence demonstrations gathering force in Barcelona. Thousands of university students marching in support of a planned but unofficial referendum for Catalonian independence on Sunday. Reuters' Bureau Chief in Madrid, Julian Torres, says there's several reasons Catalonia is seeking this split. One being they have a different culture and language to the rest of Spain.
>> But they also want better control of their taxes. Catalonia is one of the wealthy regions of Spain, and it obviously sends a lot of its taxes to the rest of the poorer regions. And basically the Catalans believe they would have a better economy. And also a stronger country if they had full control of their taxes.
>> It's plunged Spain into one of its biggest political crises in decades. Madrid says such a vote is illegal and unconstitutional, ordering authorities to close polling stations and prevent it going ahead. Instructions local police won't follow because of concerns it will increase the risk of violence. Catalan and Spanish Central Government officials held a meeting on security as a matter of urgency on Thursday.
As the Catalan Foreign Affairs Chief urged the European Union to intervene in the dispute.>> Civil rights have been violated as I speak, and the quality of democracy in Spain is eroding day after day.>> If the vote does take place, it won't be internationally recognized, raising questions over what will happen next.
>> Now, most observers believe a middle ground would be for talks to start between Catalonia and the central government. On more autonomy for the regions, or maybe a better tax treatment, a better ability for Catalonia to collect its own taxes. And also probably a reform of the constitution.
>> It's highly likely if the referendum goes ahead, the passionate yes vote will win by a very large margin. Its supporters hoping to send a message of just how many of them there are.