THE Spanish parliament’s decision to allow Mariano Rajoy to lead a minority government following two inconclusive elections and 10 months of deadlock will not alter plans by the north-eastern state of Catalonia to press its case for independence, The National can reveal.

Rajoy, leader of the conservative Popular Party (PP), who has led a caretaker government since losing his overall majority last December, won backing from the Ciudadanos (Citizens) party and tacit support from the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), 68 of whom abstained from voting for him.

Spain had faced the prospect of a third general election within a year, but PSOE leader Pedro Sànchez stood down after rejecting calls to abstain.

The Catalan Parliament, which supports secession from Spain, had previously set out an 18-month roadmap to independence, despite the Spanish constitutional court ruling the move illegal.

Speaking exclusively to The National last night, Albert Royo Mariné, secretary general of the Diplomatic Council of Catalonia (Diplocat), said: “The 18-month roadmap goes ahead. Nothing changes.

“[Catalan] President Puigdemont will request a meeting with Prime Minister Rajoy to formally ask for the referendum.

“It is going to be the 19th time that the Catalan institutions ask for it. If the answer is No again, we’ll proceed to organise it next September even if it is banned by the Spanish courts.”

Following the December stalemate Spain tried to put together a coalition government, but the emergence of the left-wing Podemos party, along with Ciudadanos and other regional parties, complicated that move.

Rajoy is expected to appoint his new cabinet on Thursday. In a speech prior to the vote and in an attempt to show his authority, he said the unity of Spain in Catalonia, Spain’s commitments to the EU and budget stability were his primary concerns.

However, Liz Castro, a member of the national board of the grassroots Catalan National Assembly, said the result was depressing for Spain.

“There is just the general amazement that Spanish politics could be so dysfunctional as to hand the government back to a party corrupt to its very core,” she said.

“I still can’t believe that those book ledgers with Mariano Rajoy’s name handwritten next to the kickbacks he received – which were printed on the front page of El País – were not enough to get him removed from office. It’s pretty depressing for Spain, and it certainly doesn’t generate any hope about a positive future for or with them.”

Castro added that the issue could prove terminal for the PSOE. “Many believe that the Socialists have dug their own grave," she said. "They would rather enable a government of Mariano Rajoy than let the Catalans vote – which was the only thing required in order to form a coalition of PSOE, Podemos, and the pro-independence parties.

“Pedro Sànchez was voted down because there were rumours he was considering ‘talking’ to the Catalans. Now he has given up his seat in Congress rather than breaking the party line on the abstention for Rajoy.

“There are many here who see Rajoy’s win as clarifying the situation. Anyone who thought there was any possibility of reform in Spain, of negotiation, have been quickly brought back to reality.”

“Some think that PSOE has so damaged itself that they won’t be able to have any effect in the legislature as they hoped, since the sword of Damocles of snap elections will permanently hang over their head; and this makes Podemos's position much stronger as the only true alternative to the PP – but we won’t see this until the next elections.

“For the Catalans, does this mean that the En Comú Podem [a left-wing Catalan coalition] can still promise that if we just vote Podemos then we could finally negotiate with Spain, or does it mean that there is no hope and it’s time to get a move on? We just don’t know.”