Spain's vice-president has said the Government will mount a legal challenge to Catalonia's recent declaration of independence, and warned that Barcelona's assertion of autonomy violates "the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation".

Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the Madrid government will oppose Catalonia's declaration before Spain's Constitutional Court, claiming "our authority as the Government is complete and has complete authority in law".

She added that the central government has received support from the Council of States, which indicated that "the said resolution [from Catalonia] is incompatible with the Constitution".

According to Santamaria, the only nation recognised by the Constitution is Spain.

Under the terms of the Constitution, the Government can challenge resolutions adopted by regional assemblies before the Constitutional Court, and these resolutions can be overruled if the Court finds in favour of the central executive.

Huge desire for independence

On 23 January, the Catalan regional parliament approved a resolution declaring that the region is a "sovereign political and legal subject".

News of the declaration follows months of pressure by Catalan president Artur Mas, who has accused the Madrid government of being anti-democratic, and wants to hold a referendum on independence next year.

Although opinion polls suggest the Catalan people remain divided on the issue of independence, many share Mas's belief that the region, one of the wealthiest in Spain, pays huge sums to Madrid in taxes and receives little in return. Catalonia already has its own police and education system.