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Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators flocked Barcelona's streets on Tuesday, calling for Catalonia's independence from Spain amid the country's growing economic crisis.

An unprecedented number of people - 1.5 million according to the Catalan police - gathered together for the usual celebration of Catalan National Day .

The red and yellow throng shouted "independence now!" and "Catalonia a new European state," in the Catalan dialect.

Hundreds of Catalonia nationalist flags - red and yellow stripes with a star at the centre of a blue triangle - were waived as the demonstration passed in front of the city hall to the regional parliament.

"The national transition has started. Everything is possible if there is a strong will, a great majority and the ability to resist," said Artur Mas, the president of Catalonia's regional government

However, amid the financial and economic crisis afflicting the whole of the Spanish nation, the demonstration had a strong economic side.

"If we do not reach a financial agreement with the central government, the path to freedom for Catalonia is open," Mas said.

According to the demonstrators Catalonia provides many more euros in taxes to the central government in Madrid than it receives in funding for services and public projects.

The difference is esteemed to be about €15bn, a significant sum considering the troubled state of Catalonia's finances.

Catalonia is the most indebted region in Spain and last month asked for €5bn from the central government's rescue fund for troubled Spanish regions to fix its budget.

Spanish and Catalan leaders are to discuss the fiscal pact on 20 September.