Nicola Sturgeon condemns attempts to quash Catalan referendum

Spain's conservative government has dealt a serious blow to Catalonia's plans to hold an independence referendum but it faces growing

The Catalan government has already vowed to push ahead with the referendum on October 1, which the Spanish government considers illegal, and on Saturday said it was refusing to hand over control of the Mossos d'Esquadra police force to Spain's Interior Ministry.

Catalan authorities despite the arrest of a dozen regional government officials and 10 million ballot papers being seized, the vote will take place.

Catalonia's executive admitted Thursday that plans for an outlawed independence referendum had been dealt a major blow by a police crackdown, but vowed to press ahead, urging support from the global community.

"They will be tasked with surveillance of public space and maintaining order and they will act in case the illegal referendum is maintained", the interior ministry said in a statement.

A spokesman for Junqueras confirmed the arrest and said that other Catalan government premises were being searched by the agents.

Visitors to Barcelona are being warned of demonstrations in the city that could disrupt travel. Three ferries docked at Barcelona's port will provide accommodation for the extra officers.

Hundreds of people gathered to protest the raids and shout pro-independence slogans outside offices in the region's capital, Barcelona. They occupied a central cloister near the offices of the dean and other university officials.

The university's administration responded to the rallies saying that the students could be in the building of the educational institution until their protest remained peaceful and the property of the university remained undamaged.

Catalan National Assembly president Jordi Sanchez told the cheering crowds: "We will be here, peacefully but present, until all of the arrested walk out free". The Constitutional Court ruled that Catalonia lacks the unilateral right to self-determination because fundamental matters such as changing the country's borders can only be decided at a national level.

Spain's central government says the planned referendum violates Spain's constitution.

Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain's 1.1 trillion-euro (£970 billion) economy and enjoys wide self-government.

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