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When Margaret Thatcher used the police in the early 1980s to crush the strike by coalminers it created a rift between the two communities - the strikers, their families, their supporters and of course the police themselves. A similar state of affairs occurred in Catalonia over the weekend; police were sent in by the government to crush an "illegal" referendum.

This move by the government of Mariano Rajoy was always going to cause trouble and it did. The police clashed with referendum supporters and their alleged heavy-handed tactics have been criticised by the Catalan government. In fact, there have been calls for a full investigation. But it is not the police who are to blame. They were following orders and acting in an almost impossible situation. It is the people who sent them there from other regions of Spain who are responsible for the violence. It is the fault of the Spanish government who failed miserably to stop the referendum by peaceful means.

The police will be in the firing line but they have been used as a political tool. The referendum may have been against the Spanish constitution but using riot police is not the way to stop what many saw as a democratic process. The incidents in Catalonia over the weekend will have opened up a rift between the Catalans and the police service. It is a rift which will take many years to heal. But the police are not responsible.