Spain PM 'won't allow' Catalonia challenge

Spain's prime minister has made his first visit to Catalonia since the region held a symbolic vote on breaking away from the country.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said in Catalonia that he will not allow any challenge to national unity, on his first visit to the region since its symbolic vote on independence.

"I will not allow challenges to the unity of Spain," Rajoy said in a speech to supporters of his conservative Popular Party in the region's main city of Barcelona.

"No one should have to choose between being Catalan or Spanish."

It was Rajoy's first visit to the wealthy northeastern region since a symbolic vote on independence, which Madrid tried to stop with a court injunction.

Rajoy, who had promised to go to Catalonia to "better explain" his position, slammed Catalan President Artur Mas, who now hopes to organise early regional elections centred on independence, which would include a joint list of candidates favouring secession.

"Never in history has a ruler lost so much time organising elections, nor generated so much instability," Rajoy said, vowing to "maintain the stability" of Spain.

The Catalan government says 2.3 million people took part in the November 9 vote - about a third of all eligible voters in the region.

Roughly 80 per cent of those who took part said they wanted Catalonia to be an independent state.

However the majority of anti-independence voters stayed at home.

Rajoy said on Saturday that Madrid had helped Catalonia financially many times since the start of the economic crisis that has shaken Spain since 2008.

Many in the wealthy region dispute such statements, saying that Catalonia accounts for around a fifth of Spain's economic output but does not receive investments in proportion to the taxes it pays.

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