Catalonian separatism has grown and grown in the face the brutal austerity imposed upon Spain during the Eurozone crisis.
The central government in Madrid has declared any referendum on independence illegal, but that has only fueled the indignation of Catalans. Catalonia president Artur Mas has decreed the referendum for November 9, effectively daring Madrid. Any intervention by the national government, up to and including attempting to physically prevent Catalans from casting their ballots, will only give credibility to the independence movement's position that Spain has no legitimate claim over the region.
Two hours after Mr Mas signed the decree, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz made Madrid's position clear: "This referendum will not be held because it is unconstitutional," she said.
The prime minister is expected to take action at a special cabinet meeting early next week, and is likely to take the dispute to the country's Constitutional Court.
However, Mr Mas says he can use local laws to hold a vote in a matter of weeks.
The decree was signed at a short ceremony and will serve as a message of intent to Spain's central government, says the BBC's Tom Burridge in Madrid.
(Image: Holding Hands for Catalan Independence NYC #CatalanWay #ViaCatalana #ViaCatalanaMon, Liz Castro, CC-BY-SA)