Catalonian anti-independence militants burn the Catalan separatist flag, "Estelada", during a demonstration on November 9, 2014 in Barcelona
Badalona (Spain) (AFP) - Luis Guevara hoped politicians in Catalonia would turn their focus to the economy after Sunday's symbolic independence referendum, but now he fears a strong turnout at the poll means more wrangling with the Spanish government.
"Of course it worries me," the 53-year-old owner of a struggling property management firm said as he went on a walk with his wife on the seaside promenade in Badalona, an industrial city near Barcelona, the Catalan capital.
"This topic has been dominant for years and it seems like it is going to keep being a central theme. While this is being discussed, we don't talk about how to boost the competitiveness of the economy, of how to attract investment."
Guevera said he did not take part in the vote because he felt it was not legitimate, a view shared by Badalona city hall which was one of the few Catalan municipalities that did not support the symbolic referendum.
Badalona's mayor belongs to the conservative Popular Party which governs Spain and which launched legal challenges against the ballot.
The Catalan government says 2.3 million people defied the central government and took part in the poll, which was organised by volunteers.
The vast majority who took part, 80 percent, voted for independence, according to preliminary results released by the Catalan government.
The results were skewed in favour of a break from Spain since anti-independence parties largely boycotted the referendum.
Speaking on the eve of the vote, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he expected "sanity" to return to the region after the vote but the head of the Catalan government, Artur Mas, says he will now seek international support to hold an official referendum.
"I don't think this will be good for us," said Adrian Recio Martinez, an unemployed engineering graduate, as he had a beer with a group of friends in the centre of Badalona, a city of around 220,000 people.
"There have already been some companies that have said that they would leave if Catalonia goes. They could leave just in anticipation that this will happen if Mas keeps talking about it," he added.
-- 'Like a friendly divorce' --
Planeta, a major publisher which employs 10,000 people has threatened to move its base away from Catalonia if the region, one of Spain's largest and wealthiest, were to break away and form its own country.
Polls in recent years say the majority of Catalonia’s 7.5 million inhabitants want an official vote on independence, while around half support cutting centuries-old ties with Spain.
Yellow posters in favour of the Yes vote were scattered around the centre of Badalona promising a new country with jobs for youths and no corruption.
"They talk about creating a new country, work for everyone, fantastic public services, no corruption. But I ask myself, would it really be like that? Or maybe there would be even more corruption," said Maria Acosta, a 34-year-old shopkeeper as she watched over her five-year-old daughter at a playground.
Acosta, who moved to Catalonia from Madrid six years ago, said she fears her daughter may have worse prospects for her future in Catalonia if the region pushes ahead with its independence drive.
Referendum organisers managed to set up 12 polling stations in Badalona despite the lack of cooperation from the town hall.
Ferran Falco, a lawmaker in the Catalan regional parliament with Mas's nationalist CiU party who represents Badalona, said opponents of independence had no reason to fear.
"People's daily routines would not suffer big changes," he said at a polling station set up in the gym of a school in Badalona, near an Art Nouveau distillery that is one of the city's top tourist draws.
"Their ties and roots with the rest of Spain would remain the same. People could have double nationality, no one would take their Spanish nationality, the languages used in Catalonia would be the same. It would be like a friendly divorce," he added.