Madrid: Spain will start suspending Catalonia's autonomy on Saturday, after its leader threatened to declare independence, the government announced on Thursday.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Office said the cabinet would meet to activate Article 155 of Spain's 1978 Constitution, a mechanism that strips Catalonia's self-governing institutions of their autonomy, allowing it to take over running of the region, the BBC reported.
"The Spanish government will continue with the procedures outlined in Article 155 of the Constitution to restore legality in Catalonia's self-government," the office said.
Speaking in Parliament, government spokesman Inigo Mendez Vigo said the measures were intended to "protect the general interest of Spaniards, including the citizens of Catalonia, and restore constitutional order to the region", reports Efe news.
He denounced that the Catalan government was intent on deliberately and systematically looking for an institutional confrontation despite the serious danger that it was creating for the economic structure of Catalonia and its ability to live in harmony.
Spain's decision comes after Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont earlier on Thursday decided not to rescind his independence bid as per an official requirement from Madrid and instead threatened to put the topic to a vote in his region's devolved parliament.
Puigdemont announced his decision in a letter to Rajoy.
Puigdemont was officially required by Rajoy's conservative government to clarify by 10 a.m. on Thursday whether or not he had declared independence during an October 10 speech in the wake of a controversial separatist poll deemed illegal by the Spanish courts.
This was the second and final deadline, as Madrid says Puigdemont on Monday failed to clarify whether he had declared independence.
In the letter published just minutes before the deadline expired, the pro-separatist head of the Catalan regional government said he could put Catalonia's independence to a vote in the devolved chamber "if the Spanish government continues to block dialogue and continues its repression".
After the independence referendum on October 1, Puigdemont had signed an independence declaration but then suspended it, asking for dialogue.
Political leaders in Madrid and Barcelona have been engaged in a tense stand-off since the disputed referendum, which Catalan leaders say resulted in a "Yes" vote for independence but which the central government regards as illegal.