What is the best way to deal with a nation or province which wants to break away from the nation state? Well the British way was to offer Scotland a referendum on independence which was rejected by the Scottish electorate, but this has failed to stop the Scottish government's breakaway dreams. The Spanish way is not to give Catalonia a referendum. The regional government responded in 2014 by holding an informal referendum on independence in breach of a legal order. The Spanish government has now put Artur Mas, the regional leader who gave the order for the informal referendum, on trial.

The cases are totally different but they do have one thing in common: there are ever growing calls for independence in Catalonia and Scotland. In Catalonia about half the population supports a breakaway from Spain and according to the latest opinion polls the the figure is similar in Scotland. So if you are Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy or his British counterpart, Theresa May, what do you do? Well, May has said that there will be no new referendum in Scotland and Rajoy has dismissed any idea of a referendum in Catalonia. Probably the best way forward is dialogue, which is obviously not easy when you are dealing with nationalist politicians who dream of independence. But there is some good news for May. Rajoy has said that he would veto any move by an independent Scotland to join the EU. Back to square one.