Well, at least the Spanish government is prepared to listen to the Catalan government which wants a breakaway from Spain. Catalonia is preparing to hold an independence referendum which the Spanish government says is illegal, but the Catalan government claims that it has little option because Madrid refuses to negotiate. Prime minister Mariano Rajoy said yesterday that the Spanish government could hold talks with the regional authority, but independence was not an issue.

Rajoy has attempted to halt the nationalist march through the courts and using bully boy-style tactics but so far he has been unsuccessful. I do not really understand why the Spanish government refuses to allow a poll on independence. At the moment less than 50 per cent of people support a breakaway and I am sure that the figure would drop even further if a referendum did take place. Rajoy must realise that Catalonia will be pushing for a vote on a breakaway from Spain until it actually takes place. The prime minister needs to measure his words with the Catalan government and its people. A charm offensive is needed in which the Spanish government can underline the benefits for Catalonia of remaining part of Spain.

These are difficult times and obviously the Spanish government wants Spain to stay united. But the only way forward is dialogue, but it does appear that Rajoy is starting to learn from his mistakes.