The parliament of the north-eastern Spanish region of Catalonia on Thursday approved a resolution foreseeing a vote on independence, while Spain vowed to do "whatever it can" to prevent it, dpa reported.
Catalans will be "consulted" on the "collective future" of the region of 7.6 million residents, preferably during the four-year legislature following the November 25 regional elections, the resolution said.
It was approved with the votes of regional Prime Minister Artur Mas' Catalan nationalist formation CiU and several smaller parties. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative People's Party (PP) voted against, while the Socialists abstained.
The two parties accuse Mas of fuelling separatism in an attempt to divert attention from economic problems in the heavily indebted region. Mas has adopted unpopular spending cuts in health and education, while regional unemployment has climbed to more than 20 per cent.
Mas announced on Wednesday that if he wins the elections, Catalonia will stage a "consultation" - presumably a referendum - on its future, even if Spain does not authorize it.
PP Secretary General Dolores de Cospedal said the government would do "whatever it can" to prevent the "illegal" vote.
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the state would make use of the instruments at its disposal.
Catalan regional Interior Minister Felip Puig rejected concern from employers that an independent Catalonia would harm their interests. On the contrary, it would spell "benefits for companies and employees," Puig said.
Spain's economic crisis has encouraged separatism in the region with its own language, which has sought more autonomy for decades.
Many Catalans now feel the region would have coped better with the crisis if it had not transferred part of its tax revenue to poorer Spanish regions.
A pro-independence rally drew up to two million people in Barcelona recently.
The Spanish constitution does not allow regions to call referendums. Rajoy's government, which already faces a separatist movement in the Basque region, does not want to see moves which could eventually lead to the unravelling of the Spanish state.