Catalonia to push ahead with independence

An informal vote on independence for Catalonia has shown more than 80% in favour, officials said yesterday.The non-binding vote went ahead after Spain's constitutional court ruled out holding a formal referendum in the autonomous north-eastern region.More than two million people out of an estimated 5.4 million eligible voters took part in the ballot on Sunday.Catalan leader Artur Mas hailed the poll "a great success" that should pave the way for a formal referendum."We have earned the right to a referendum," he told cheering supporters."Once again Catalonia has shown that it wants to rule itself."The BBC's Patrick Jackson reports from a polling station in Catalonia.He added: "I ask the people in the world, I ask the media and I also ask the democratic governments in the world to help the Catalan people decide its political future."The ballot was held in the face of fierce opposition from the Spanish government.

Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catala dismissed the exercise as "a sterile and useless sham" that only served to exacerbate the divisions between Catalans and heighten political tensions.He accused Artur Mas of pushing ahead with the 9 November vote to "hide his failure" in holding a proper referendum."The government considers this to be a day of political propaganda organised by pro-independence forces and devoid of any kind of democratic validity," he said in a statement.