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When Spain closed in on victory in the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, Spanish flags started to appear on balconies and windows across the country. Commentators at the time said that it was one of the first times that Spaniards were actually flying the flag for their country. The World Cup victory, with seven players from Barcelona, helped bring the country together it was claimed. These flags have appeared again in relatively big numbers, but they have nothing to do with football; this is a call for unity ahead of today’s planned referendum on Catalan independence.

Spain is effectively split over the Catalan vote. But it is a three-way split. There are some who oppose the referendum, others who believe that Catalans should have their say and others who believe that Catalonia should be independent. My view is that the Spanish government has completely mishandled the situation and to some extent the pro-independence movement has made some big errors also.

The Spanish government has used the police force to try and stop the referendum because today's poll is illegal and does not have the blessing from Madrid. But this has been a mistake because it appears that the police are being used by the Spanish government to halt a democratic process. Now, the independence movement should have attempted more dialogue with Madrid or try to bring other political parties onside.

Are we seeing the break-up of Spain? Well, it will obviously depend on the turnout and outcome of today’s poll. The fact that Catalans have fought hard for the referendum in the face of deep opposition from Madrid shows that they want to have their say and perhaps Madrid should allow them to have a legal referendum. The splits which have appeared are deep and will take years to heal - if they can heal at all.