Barcelona: Lawmakers at the Catalan parliament on Friday voted in favour of unilaterally declaring independence from Spain. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for "calm" in the wake of the decision.
The resolution was approved with 72 votes in favour, 10 against and two blank, Efe news agency reported.
The Catalan regional versions of the main Spanish parties -- the ruling conservative Popular Party, the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the centre-right Ciudadanos -- walked out and refused to take part in the vote, which they considered unconstitutional.
Rajoy tweeted: "I ask for calm from all of the Spaniards. The rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia."
The Spanish Senate is currently debating applying Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to Catalonia to sack Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his executive, and hand control of Catalan institutions to Madrid.
Some media reports said that the Spanish cabinet will meet at 7 p.m. on the issue.
Lawmakers at the Catalan parliament earlier approved starting the constitutional process to set the creation of a new state in motion with 71 votes in favour, eight against and three abstentions.
As the vote took place, some 15,000 people gathered outside the regional parliament in Barcelona in favour of independence, chanting "not a single step back" and "we are with you".
At the same time, the Spanish Senate was preparing a series of measures underpinning Article 155 of the constitution, a constitutional mechanism that brings autonomous regions under the central government's direct rule and which was triggered in Catalonia following a bid for independence.
The conservative government, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, wants to remove Puigdemont and his cabinet from their posts, limit the functions of the local parliament, impose direct Madrid rule on some Catalan ministries and institutions as well as call fresh elections.