Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said on Sunday that the Spanish region has won the right to statehood following a contentious referendum that was marred by violence. He said the door had been opened to a unilateral declaration of independence. Catalan officials later said 90% of those who voted backed independence in Sunday's vote. The turnout was 42.3%.
Spain's constitutional court had declared the poll illegal and hundreds of people were injured as police used force to try to block voting. Officers seized ballot papers and boxes at polling stations.
On Monday the government in Madrid is scheduled to hold talks with Spanish parties to discuss a response to the biggest political crisis Spain has seen in decades
With this day of hope and suffering, the citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state in the form a republic, Puigdemont said in a televised address flanked by other senior Catalan leaders.
My government, in the next few days will send the results of today's vote to the Catalan parliament, where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum.
He said the European Union could no longer continue to look the other way.
In another development, more than 40 trade unions and Catalan associations called a region-wide strike on Tuesday due to the grave violation of rights and freedoms.
Earlier, as voting ended, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Catalans had been fooled into taking part in an illegal vote. He called it a mockery of democracy.
At this hour I can tell you in the strongest terms what you already know and what we have seen throughout this day. There has not been a referendum on self-determination in Catalonia, he said.
Rajoy called to meet with all Spanish political parties to discuss the country’s future following the referendum. He also thanked security forces for upholding the law and doing their job.
Large crowds of independence supporters gathered in the centre of Barcelona on Sunday evening, waving flags and singing the Catalan anthem. Anti-independence protesters have also held rallies in Barcelona and other Spanish cities.
The Catalan government said more than 800 people had been injured in clashes across the region. Those figures included people who had suffered relatively minor complaints such as anxiety attacks.
Meanwhile the Spanish interior ministry said 12 police officers had been hurt and three people arrested. It added that 92 polling stations had been closed.
Police used batons and fired rubber bullets during pro-referendum protests in Barcelona, and Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said police had acted with professionalism and in a proportionate way.
In Gerona, riot police smashed their way into a polling station where Puigdemont was due to vote, and forcibly removed those inside. Puigdemont voted at another station. TV footage showed riot police using batons to beat a group of firefighters who were protecting crowds in Gerona.
The national police and Guardia Civil - a military force charged with police duties - were sent into Catalonia in large numbers to prevent the vote. The Catalan police - the Mossos d'Esquadra - have been placed under Madrid's control, however witnesses said they showed little inclination to use force on protesters.
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau condemned police actions against the region's defenseless population, but Deputy Prime Minister Saenz de Santamaria said police had acted with professionalism and in a proportionate way.
Overnight Catalonia's government claimed a turnout of 2.2 million people - not far off half of the electorate. It also said that 90% voted yes for independence from Spain. But given the chaotic nature of the vote, all figures should be taken with great caution.