The referendum, in either way, will be "the last step before proclaiming independence," the Catalan president said. Puigdemont insisted on the need for "permission from Catalans" to all steps to be taken by the government in this matter.
Puigdemont said a referendum agreed with the Spanish government is the "ideal democratic validation." But he regretted that the Spanish government has so far refused it, and recalled that the demand for a referendum is shared by 60% of Catalan voters. The Catalan president also said he is willing to negotiate "the question, the date, the quorums and the moratoria" of the referendum with the Spanish government.
If no positive answer from the Spanish government comes before July 2017, then the Catalan government will unilaterally call a referendum on independence, Puigdemont warned.
The Catalan president said that "all state structures" needed for independence to be implemented will be ready by July 2017. He also recalled that the Catalan government (made up of members of big tent, pro-secession alliance Junts pel Sí) has the "mandate to bring Catalonia to the gates of independence".
Vote of confidence
Puigdemont was addressing the Catalan Parliament as he is undergoing a vote of confidence that he himself asked for. His Junts pel Sí group has 62 out of 135 seats in Parliament, 6 short of an absolute majority. Puigdemont needs the support from another pro-independence group: anti-capitalist CUP, which holds 10 seats.
In January 2016, Puigdemont was vested Catalan president with the votes of Junts pel Sí and CUP. But the latter party rejected to join government.
In June 2016, all opposition parties including CUP vetoed the adoption of the 2016 budget that had been drafted by the Junts pel Sí government. A subsequent political crisis led to today's confidence vote.
The vote itself will be held tomorrow. It is expected that both Junts pel Sí and CUP will support Puigdemont to remain in office.
But Puigdemont warns that yet another veto to the 2017 budget will automatically bring an and to the current term, as he will call a snap election. This means that CUP will need to agree with Junts pel Sí on a budget if the anti-capitalist party wants the independence process to go ahead.
CUP parliamentary speaker Anna Gabriel said today her party is "fully in tune" with Puigdemont's referendum proposal, but was unclear over the budget issue.
Opposition parties C's, PP and PSC-PSOE rejected referendum plans. Opposition left-wing alliance Catalonia Yes We Can (CSQP) welcomed the idea of a referendum if it is agreed with the Spanish government.