Catalan President Carles Puigdemont suspends independence to allow talks with Spanish Government

Independence supporters in Barcelona await the outcome of the speech. Credit: AP

Catalonia's President has declared the autonomous region an independent state, but suspended this independence for "a few weeks" pending further talks with Spain's Government.

However, the central government has said it does not accept the validation of the banned referendum or the independence decision.

In his address to the Catalan Parliament, the region's President, Carles Puigdemont, said he had a mandate to declare independence for the north-eastern region, but proposed waiting to allow for negotiations to take place.

Catalan lawmakers signed a document they described as a declaration of independence, but delayed its implementation.

Mr Puigdemont made his announcement during a special session of the Catalan Parliament in which he stressed that the only way forward was through democracy and peace.

The 54-year-old's speech comes nine days after 2.3 million Catalans - 43% of the north-eastern region's electorate - voted in the October 1 independence referendum, which the Spanish government said was illegal.

Yet regional authorities declared the vote valid and said 90% who voted were in favour of independence.

The ballot was marred by violence with around 900 voters and 33 police officers injured as they clashed.

In one instance a woman was seen being dragged away from a polling booth by her hair.

Mr Puigdemont condemned the central government's "aggressive" behaviour in trying to stop the vote.

Mr Puigdemont's speech was met with claps and cheers. Credit: APTN

It is thought that Mr Puigdemont's proposal will not be popular with either side of the debate.

Madrid had previously said it would seek to imprison the President if he sought independence and said it will block any moves towards secession.

It is also thought unlikely that the Government would accept two weeks of negotiations.

An emergency meeting of the Spanish Cabinet over Catalonia has been called for Wednesday, with the country's deputy prime minister claiming Mr Puigdemont "doesn't know where he is, where he is going and with whom he wants to go".

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría also issued a string of tweets condemning Mr Puigdemont's proposal, saying he had "plunged" Catalonia into "uncertainty".

She added: "No one can benefit from a law that does not exist, give validity to a referendum that has not happened or appropriate the will of an entire people" and said rules "cannot be made up".

Meanwhile, the opposition leader in Catalonia's Parliament branded Mr Puigdemont's speech "a coup" and said it had no support in Europe.

Ines Arrimadas of the Ciudadanos (Citizens) party said the majority of Catalans feels they are Catalans, Spanish and European and that they would not let regional officials “break their hearts.”

During his address, Mr Puigdemont stressed the "need to de-escalate tension and not contribute to increase it with words or actions" and called on the Spanish Government to listen.

He continued that the Catalan Government was always willing to enter talks, and said the current situation was a European matter.

In his speech, which was delayed by more than an hour while it was finalised, Mr Puigdemont continued that Catalonia had been a source of stability, and said he was not planning any threat or insult.

Riot police and voters clashed as authorities tried to shut down the vote. Credit: AP

While 90% of those who voted in the disputed referendum backed independence, it is believed that many who back remaining part of Spain stayed away from the ballot boxes.

In the days since the outlawed vote, thousands have taken to the streets of Barcelona, as well as Madrid and other towns and cities to express their views whether for or against independence.

Last week, Spain's King Felipe VI condemned Catalan authorities, saying they had deliberately bent the law with their "irresponsible conduct".

Delivering an address to the nation by television, the king said the bid by authorities in the northeastern region to push ahead with independence had "undermined coexistence" in Catalonia.

A number of Catalan flags were waved during Nicola Sturgeon's speech. Credit: Pool

During Nicola Sturgeon's address to the SNP conference in Glasgow, a number of Catalan flags were seen in the audience in an apparent show of solidarity with the region's calls for independence.

Police fired on voters with rubber bullets. Credit: AP