Catalonia's pro-independence coalition last night pledged to press ahead with plans to declare unilateral independence from Spain, buoyed by success in a regional election which early polling results showed them winning clearly.
Exit polls in the vote for the regional parliament showed pro-independence parties winning a clear majority and enough for the mandate that they say they sought for secession.
To triumphant shouts of "Independence", Francesc Homs, a Catalan government minister, hailed the coalition's apparent majority in front of supporters gathered in the Born neighbourhood of Barcelona. He told them: "We have a historic turnout and it seems to be that we will also have a majority for independence. We have done it!"
Billed by politicians on both sides of the divide as a crucial moment in the future of Catalonia - and with it of Spain and even Europe - the election saw a record-breaking turnout, with more than 63pc of Catalonia's 5.5 million voters having cast their ballots by 6pm, almost seven points higher than in the last regional elections in 2012.
It was an emotional day for independence supporters, who proclaimed it the culmination of years of struggle for self-determination.
Mr Mas defied increasingly trenchant warnings from Madrid to hold this de facto independence vote, which Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, had dismissed as unconstitutional.
He insists that a majority for his pro-independence coalition Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) and its allies, the Leftist CUP, will enable him to start an 18-month secession process in which Catalonia will begin setting up state institutions.