Imagine if two years ago Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had given the people of Catalonia a referendum on their future. At the time, according to the polls, a majority of people wanted to remain part of Spain. Rajoy has misunderstood the Catalan people, or at least those who favour a breakaway or more home rule. He has tried to shield himself with the Spanish Constitution which claims that Spain must remain united, but the only thing he has done is stoke the fires of independence in Catalonia and create an even bigger rift between the wealthy region and the rest of the country.

Rajoy should have opened talks with the pro-independence Catalan government because it must be remembered that a sizable number of people in Catalonia want to remain part of Spain. He should have taken a gamble and given Catalonia a referendum. Then he should have concentrated all his efforts on underlining the benefits of remaining part of Spain. He talks of the illegal referendum of 1 October as being against the Constitution but surely there is the small issue of democracy. People in a modern European country should be able to exercise their democratic right and have their say. There are different opinions in Catalonia and the government should listen to both sides. The millions of people who support independence are not going to change their minds overnight. This is a problem which needs to be resolved.