Voices: Independence for Catalonia from Spain

People in the north-eastern Spanish region of Catalonia head to the polls in an early election on 25 November.

Regional leader Artur Mas has promised that if re-elected, he will organise a referendum on whether Catalonia should break with Spain and become an independent state.

The central government in Madrid insists a Catalan referendum would not be in line with the Spanish constitution introduced in 1978 after the death of the authoritarian ruler, General Francisco Franco. These Catalans gave their views to BBC News.

Luis Uria Massana, from Barcelona, now living in Paris

What happened in Catalonia? How did supporters of independence, a small minority only five years ago, became a majority today?

It is not simply because of a strong Catalan sense of identity, nor is it because of the frustration many people felt with legal decisions that impeded Catalonia's moves towards greater autonomy. It is because of the financial crisis.

The crisis has been the most valuable prop to nationalists. They used economic arguments to win the support of those Catalans who have roots in other parts of Spain. It started with a real fiscal imbalance.

They have spread the idea - simple but effective - that all of Catalonia's problems stem from Spain, a Spain that "steals" and "pillages" the Catalans' wealth.

In this sense, Catalonia is not too different than Scotland, Flanders or the north of Italy, territories where the idea of "fiscal egoism" is becoming more popular. The Catalan nationalists are promising their supporters a new state in the European Union.

There is no guarantee of this happening. But their movement goes against the European principle of solidarity, and it undermines the whole project of European political union.

Meritxell Ramirez Olle, originally from Vacarisses, now studying in Edinburgh

I hope the parliament of Catalonia can go ahead with organising a referendum. I hope that the Catalans can vote in peace without being threatened by the Spanish government.

It would be nice if the Spanish central government and the Catalan autonomous regional government could come to an agreement, as the British and Scottish governments have done.

At the same time, I do not think we can expect Madrid to make such a gesture. Spanish politicians are not used to listening, negotiating or allowing secession, if it comes to that.

The legacy of Gen Franco weighs heavily on Spanish politics. Even if the Spanish government does not cede sovereignty to the Catalan parliament, I hope that Artur Mas and the pro-independence parties fulfil their promises to organise a referendum quickly.

I hope they are wise enough to look to Europe for support. Europe cannot turn its back on a people who have democratically expressed their desire to be a new state within Europe.

Manel Bargallo, originally from Blanes, now living in Germany

For work reasons I travelled all over Spain during the 1980s and 90s.

I quickly understood that it would be very difficult to continue being Catalans inside Spain. Spain has historically been built as the Castillian state, with Madrid being the metropolis, and any attempt at opening it to other Iberian nations has been rejected with violence.

Historically for Castille, Catalonia belongs to Spain by right of conquest. We need a state by our side and not the opposite. Too many times, Spain has preferred not to invest in Catalonia even though this is detrimental to Spain.

With this in view, I would like the Catalan nation to exercise its right of self-determination in a referendum. That is why on 25 November I will not vote for any party that denies us this right.

In spite of the threats from Madrid, I believe that eventually Spain will have to allow Catalonia the referendum. Why would it be allowed in Scotland and not in Catalonia?

Also, I think the European Union would not allow Spain to use force against European citizens to stop them from doing something so democratic as voting. If the EU collaborates with Spain, or is an accomplice to the Spanish nationalists' threats and coercion, it will sow the seeds that may even lead to the destruction of the EU.

Alex Gutierrez, Barcelona

In a short time, Catalan independence has been transformed from an impossible goal to something now perceived as more or less inevitable, but we can only foresee the first stages.

This November, Catalonia will be left in a situation where at least two-thirds of the [Catalan] national assembly members will have been elected, having promised a referendum in their election manifesto. The Catalan national government will find itself in direct opposition to Madrid, duty-bound to carry out the promises which gave it a large mandate.

Then the really interesting questions begin. How far will Spain go to accommodate Catalonia? Will the Catalan leader be stripped of his powers, or even be imprisoned, as some have called for in the Spanish press?

Will they send in the military, to stop the democratic process? Each one of these issues, covered extensively in the international media, would be toxic for Spain, a country that is falling apart both economically and in terms of its own territory.

These questions would also strengthen the sense of a divorce between Spain and Catalonia, with a tax drain on finances and the systematic failure of investment, feeding the contempt for its culture and identity. The ranks of people in favour of independence have not stopped swelling in recent years, whether it is for reasons of the heart, or the purse.

On 11 September, the national day of Catalonia, it was clear [with the demonstrations] in the street that people wanted their own state.

After November's elections, it will be the same inside parliament. Convergence and Union now campaigns for an independent state. There is a new unity between voters and politicians on the issue. This unity legitimises the process and makes it unstoppable.