Support Catalan independence or not, many of my Spanish friends admire the way in which Britain went about the referendums in Scotland and over Europe. They consider both events clear and strong examples of a true democracy, something, many say, they do not in Spain, especially if you live in Catalonia and want to break away from Spain.

The minority central Partido Popular centre-right government is having nothing of independence. Dialogue is a word not in Madrid’s dictionary, but threat is. And that is only cranking up the tension between Barcelona and the capital - not to mention adding to the hatred. Yesterday, Catalonian leaders appealed to the Spanish government for dialogue to avert an impending political crisis over a planned referendum on independence as Madrid took measures to stop state cash being used to fund the vote. Police also intervened to stop a meeting organised by a pro-independence Catalan party, the first public police crackdown on the process.

The government of the wealthy northeastern region has pledged to hold a referendum on breaking away from Spain in defiance of prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who has declared the event illegal and is bringing the weight of the state to bear to prevent it. But he is only making matters worse and should remember that Spain is a democracy.