Spain threatens to cut funding for Catalonia over independence referendum

Catalonia's October 1st independence referendum might not even take place, given that the central government deems it illegal, but the campaign leading up to it began on Friday. Polls have shown support for independence waning since then, and those wanting a separate state are in a minority.

The wealthy northeastern region launched its official campaign for an independence referendum on Thursday in defiance of Madrid, which has declared the process illegal, and the Constitutional Court, which has suspended the vote.

Spain's King Felipe (centre) looks down as he stands along politicians including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (third left) while they observe a minute of silence in Placa de Catalunya, in Barcelona, August 18, 2017.

Friday's announcement was made by Spanish Treasury Minister, Cristobal Montoro in the press conference following the weekly cabinet meeting, saying that unless "the Generalitat approve this agreement of no availability, the Ministry will adopt it in their substitution".

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont told broadcaster TV3 on Thursday the national government in Madrid has created a "climate of hostility and paranoia" around the planned ballot.

There is no official "no" campaign for the October 1 referendum, as most of the regional and national opposition are refusing to participate in the vote.

After the referendum was announced, Madrid warned Catalonia it risked losing access to a separate funding program, set up in 2012 when economic crisis hammered regional budgets, if it failed to provide weekly accounts.

The move comes just days after one million Catalans marched in Barcelona calling for independence.

The prosperous Catalonia region generates a fifth of the country's 1.1-trillion euro economy.

The central government has also started proceedings against the 712 of Catalonia's 948 mayors who have offered the use of public spaces in their towns as voting stations.

"We are acting firmly to ensure the rights and liberties of everyone and will react to whatever the secessionists do", he said. Prosecutors have summoned over 700 mayors, who are being investigated for giving support for the vote.

"We call for. open and unconditional dialogue. A political dialogue, from legitimacy that each one represents, to make possible what democracy is never a problem, nor still less a crime: listen to voice of citizens".

On September 6, Catalonia's parliament voted in favor of a law on the transition to independence that regulates the region's exit from Spain, the parliamentary speaker said.

Vanessa Coleman