Spanish PM asks for 'calm' after Catalan Parliament votes for independence

Catalonia held an independence referendum on Oct 1 which was declared illegal by Madrid and marred by heavy-handed national police tactics to stop it.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded immediately, urging "all Spaniards to remain calm".

The prime minister said the unprecedented imposition of direct rule on Catalonia was essential to "recover normality" in the region.

Pro-independence crowds massed outside the Parliament cheered and waved the Catalan separatist "Estelada" flag as the result was announced.

The lawmakers stood to chant the Catalan official anthem, joined by dozens of guests.

On Thursday, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont opted not to call elections for a new regional parliament - thought to be the only way to stave off Madrid's imminent power grab.

Based on the vote, Puigdemont moved towards an independence declaration, but suspended it pending negotiations.

But within an hour, the upper house of Spain's parliament in Madrid authorised Rajoy's government to rule Catalonia directly.

What is happening in Catalonia is "a clear violation of the laws, of democracy, of the rights of all, and that has consequences", he said.

However, the Welsh and Scottish governments both backed the Catalans.

The Article 155 measures were not aimed against the people of the region, he insisted, but "to prevent abuse of Catalonia" by its own leaders.

The proposal that was approved had been submitted by the ruling Catalan Together for Yes coalition and their allies in the far-left CUP party.

"We constitute the Catalan Republic, as an independent and sovereign country, under the rule of law", said the preamble to the resolution, read by Speaker Carme Forcadell. "I hope the Spanish government favors force of argument, not argument of force".

The independence move was opposed by all opposition lawmakers in the prosperous region. Ultimately, he put it to Catalonia's 135 MPs to vote.

"With this paper, you leave those Catalans who don't follow you orphaned without a government. Back then, it was forbidden", he said, serving coffees and omelettes to customers in bar Haiti and referring to former dictator Francisco Franco's repression of Catalonia.

"Spain is living through a sad day", Rajoy said.

"Exceptional measures need to be adopted when there are no other ways to go back to normality", Rajoy said to the Spanish senate. "The unilateral declaration of independence won't protect us against Article 155, you will only make the majority of people suffer".

As he spoke, thousands of independence supporters packed the Sant Jaume Square in front of the Catalan regional headquarters in Barcelona, their earlier joyful mood somewhat dampened by Rajoy's actions.

Ms Hyslop said: "We understand and respect the position of the Catalan Government".

There was a possibility that Puigdemont could have called early elections instead of declaring independence, which might have softened Spain's response.