Sadiq Khan speaks at the Labour conference in Brighton last year. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Sadiq Khan's speech on prison reform: full text

"We will strive to turn prisons into engines of work, education and training."

Speech to the IPPR and Prison Reform Trust

It’s a pleasure to be here today, and to see so many friendly faces 
I want to thank the Prison Reform Trust and IPPR for hosting today’s speech
Both organisations are invaluable in helping politicians understand the challenges of constructing a justice system that works.

Nelson Mandela once said “no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails”
Over the three and a half years in this job, I’ve visited a lot of jails.
Big ones, small ones, women’s jails, young offender institutions, secure children’s homes and training centres
New ones, Victorian ones
Public, private
Good, failing 
I’ve seen the full spectrum
Only now can I appreciate Mandela’s words 
And these visits have helped shape my thinking, culminating in today’s speech, “Prisons That Work”

It's an undeniable fact that we live in a society where people do bad things 
Sometimes so bad that being sent to prison is the only option. 
However prison should be a last resort, reserved for serious, violent and persistent offenders
And it’s an undeniable fact that most of those in jail today won’t be in for ever
90% of those inside will be free a decade from now, having done their time
So when we say we want prisons that work, we know that can’t mean jails that are simply huge warehouses, squashing in ever more prisoners, who are doomed to idle away their days, all too ready to slip back into a life of crime when they’re released
That means more victims, more human misery and a massive waste of talent
And then there’s the cost
According to the National Audit Office, re-offending costs us £13billion a year 
That’s almost double the Ministry of Justice’s budget
Tackling re-offending – by making prisons work – would save money and make us all safer as a result
With budgets under pressure, we have to do everything we can do reduce re-offending

During Labour’s 13 years in Government crime fell by 43% 
But by the end of our time in office, there were 85,000 people behind bars – 25,000 more than in 1997
I don’t believe there is a simple, perfect correlation between the rise in prison numbers and the fall of crime
It’s far more complicated
Undoubtedly, sending to prison more bad people for longer did help bring down crime rates
But, although they nudged downwards in our final years, we didn’t do enough to bring down rates of re-offending 
We laid the groundwork for reductions in re-offending with Bradley, Corston, the Youth Justice Board and the intensive alternative to custody pilots 
We recognised that offenders are not one uniform group
There are distinct groups within it, each with differing characteristics, and each requiring a different approach
We started to do the necessary work to address it, particularly in our latter years in Government. 

And for a while, I thought the Tories got it too
Like many, I was sympathetic to their talk of a rehabilitation revolution
But now I realise it was nothing more than a sham
That it was all part and parcel of their hug a hoodie, hug a husky masquerade
That it was just an exercise in spin, to make the nasty party seem less nasty
And to make the voters think they had changed. 

Many of you will recall “Prisons with a Purpose”, their 2008 pamphlet
I’ll hold up my hands – there’s plenty in it I agree with
Their calls for small, local prisons
And their focus on rehabilitation and work in prisons
In his foreword, David Cameron described the proposals as “a new generation of prisons and a new model of prison management. It is designed to deliver justice for victims and to ensure that prisoners make restitution to society for their crimes, and leave prison with better skills and prospects than they had when they entered”
Who could disagree?

And this carried on in their early months in Government
Some of you may remember my warm words in the House of Commons when Ken Clarke unveiled his Green Paper Breaking the Cycle in December 2010 – I certainly do

But it unravelled
The Tories reverted to type
Even more so when Ken Clarke was unceremoniously dumped for Chris Grayling – a classic Tory lurch to the right
I’ve not heard the words rehabilitation revolution leave Chris Grayling’s lips
And, as the Chief Inspector picked up in his most recent annual report, there’s no longer any mention of working prisons.
Nick Hardwick said “Only a few years ago we heard a lot about ‘working prisons’ and making prisons places of productive activity. More recently there has been a deafening silence on this topic and prisons might be excused if they believe this is no longer a priority”

Let’s go through their record
Remember in opposition Tory criticisms of Titan prisons?
David Cameron declaring “the idea that big is beautiful with prisons is wrong”
I agree – big, supermax style prisons aren’t the answer
We don’t want giant warehouses 
Massive stadium-like jails with thousands and thousands of criminals lumped in together
Difficult to control and keep order, let alone doing anything like rehabilitation
But what’s happened now?
Suddenly, they’ve embraced Titan prisons
Wrexham, and maybe Feltham down the line, will get two enormous prisons of over 2,500 prisoners
And let’s not forget about the 400 place, £85million Secure College in the East Midlands – you could call it a teenage Titan.
What a reversal!

They said smaller well performing prisons were their model
But in government they’ve closed them down
At the end of last year, the National Audit Office said the Government had “traded good quality and performance for greater savings. For example, it closed some high-performing prisons before new prisons were performing well”
In February 2013, Chris Grayling held up G4S run Oakwood Prison as his blueprint for the rest of the prison system 
Just weeks later a damning inspection revealed drugs easier to obtain than soap
I’ve been to Oakwood Prison
Believe me, it’s a model of how not to run the rest of the prison system!

We were told that they’d put prisoners time to good use on education, training and work
But the reality is it isn’t happening
And to hide their shame they’ve even given up collecting data on the amount of purposeful activity undertaken by prisoners 

Things are in a bad shape
Overcrowding is up
Prisons are regularly locked out
608 incidents of police cells used for prisoners over a recent four month period
Last Friday, just 568 places left in the whole system
Riot Squad called out 72% more times than in 2010
Deaths in custody highest for a decade with four people a week dying in 2013
A string of shocking prison inspection reports – Winchester, Oakwood, Pentonville, Brixton, Bristol, Thameside, Risley
Nick Hardwick, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, warning last October that “the cracks are beginning to show”

And where’s the Government’s focus been during that time?
It’s been on gimmicks
Small, tabloid-friendly announcements that play to the gallery, giving the impression they’re doing something when really they aren’t
Such as banning the sending of books to prisoners
A policy so plainly ridiculous it has come in for huge criticism from leading authors as well as from some of Grayling’s own MPs!
Under a Labour Government ministers won’t put obstacles in the way of prisoners reading books
We will end the ban on books. 
And we will review the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme to make sure it is not undermining efforts at rehabilitation. 

The Government’s rehabilitation agenda all but ignores prisons
Instead, the Government have put all their eggs in the basket of privatising probation
But these plans are uncosted, untested and untried, and risk public safety
Private companies with no record of working in this area given responsibility for supervising serious and violent offenders in the community

While, on the other hand, they’ve allowed prisons to become more squalid, overcrowded and violent – miles away from what we need to rehabilitate criminals
It’s almost as if they’ve given up on doing anything meaningful in prisons, in the hope that a brave, new world of privatised probation will iron out the deep creases of those released from jail

Should I have the privilege of being Justice Secretary in 2015, there won’t be a great inheritance
Money will be very tight for some time to come
That’s why Labour has committed to a zero-based spending review
But we’ll also receive a hospital pass in many other ways
Prisons more overcrowded and violent
A looming crunch on prison capacity
High profile projects this Government has committed the next government to fund, including Wrexham and Feltham prisons and the new Secure College 
A reckless, half-baked probation privatisation 
The challenge will be the greatest for some while, but with very little room for manoeuvre 

That’s why I’m determined Labour will work from first principles
We’ll invest to prevent crime in the first place – housing, education, Sure Start
And to stop offenders going on to commit any more offences
Prisons based on collaboration, with public private and voluntary groups all pulling in the same direction to effectively punish and reform offenders
With prisoners contributing back to society, through restorative justice and community payback, reparation for the harm done through their crimes
To deliver on this, we’ll squeeze every last drop out of the taxpayers’ spend
We’ll be clear what we expect of sentencing, what the guilty will do as part of their punishment, and what will be done to stop criminals re-offending
We’ll look again at effective Intensive Alternatives to Custody, not consign them to the waste bin like the current government 
We’ll build on the success of diversion – taking the fantastic work of the YJB and, if budgets allow, look to expand its remit to older age groups
Identifying other key groups in the system, such as women 
And deliver the National Strategy for Muslims in our prisons – something the current Government has ignored, despite calls for it in 2010 by the Inspectorate

We’ll be clear about what we want our prisons to do
Labour will identify what makes a “good” prison
Because we want our prisons: 
• To recognise they have a role on top of the importance of preventing escapes and disturbances
• To be incentivised at every level to punish AND reform offenders
• To reward good performance and have zero tolerance of failure

And our notion of a “good” prison will be underpinned by five key factors: 
• Strong leadership
• Local partnership
• A professional workforce
• Proper accountability
• Rehabilitation at the core
I want to use the rest of my speech to outline what we’ll do in each of these five areas

George Bernard Shaw said “the most anxious man in a prison is the governor”
We know what he meant!
They sweat about escapes and disturbances and more
On my travels I’ve met good and not so good governors
And one of the characteristics of a good prison has been a governor in place for a decent stretch of time

In my own constituency is Wandsworth Prison
The Governor seems to chop and change more often than Premier League football managers
How can you change the culture in a 160 year old prison if you’re in the post less than a year?

Recently I uncovered data showing 5 prisons have had 4 governors since May 2010
And 24 have had 3 governors 
These aren’t the ingredients that make for good governance

We’ll put a stop to this
Prison governors must be appointed for a period long enough to give them time to stamp their mark 
And this is implicit when they’re appointed
They’ll then know the task ahead of them, and the time they’ve got to deliver improvements
We wouldn’t give a head teacher less than a year to run a school
The same should apply to governors running prisons
We wouldn’t tolerate a school having four head teachers in four years
The same should apply to governors running prisons
Instead, we’ll invest the time and confidence in them to do it

And I think we should go further
I want improved career structures for those running prisons, with better training in place
Good governors should be encouraged to stay in place, not chopped and changed
Specialisms should be nurtured – those good at running women’s prisons, say, or those whose expertise is in the high security estate
I believe prisons would benefit from these changes

And good governors running good prisons should be rewarded with greater freedom
Underperforming prisons could be incentivised to improve with the prospect of these rewards
Inspected prisons that are performing well should have more control over budgets
It should be up to them who they contract to deliver education, training and healthcare in prisons
The current process of outsourcing education, training and healthcare isn’t working
Time and again on prison visits my questions about who’s enforcing the contracts are received by shrugs of shoulders
It’s not good enough that taxpayers’ money is used so inefficiently
Well performing prisons, with strong leadership, are the best level for these contracts to be awarded and enforced 

But there’s a flipside 
Prisons must be on notice that failure won’t be tolerated
In both public and private prisons
I’ve already said I wouldn’t have been so complacent with Oakwood Prison as Chris Grayling has been
I’d haul in the management, and give G4S six months to show signs of improvement otherwise I’d strip them of the prison
I’d do the same to a publicly run prison too – I’d demand improvement, or there’d be change at the top
Only with a strict, zero tolerance of bad performance can we hope to root out failing management and truly turn round our prisons

The second key factor is local partnerships
Prisons should be rooted in their local communities – working with local agencies, charities, companies and other arms of government
More power given to good performing prisons to decide with whom they want to work 
It shouldn’t be the Justice Secretary from Westminster deciding what is best in each prison
Through the gate support of prisoners is fine, but it should be when prisoners are going through the gate on arrival, not out of the gate on departure
Agencies, charities and companies in prisons from the very beginning of sentences, working to up-skill and train prisoners
Sentence plans that are meaningful and carried through
I am determined to resurrect the concept of a working prison, forgotten by the current government 
It’s crucial if we’re to instil a work ethic and give prisoners the skills and confidence they need.

And to back this up I want to explore the idea of prison boards
Each prison governor backed up by key figures from the local area
Local authorities, probation, police, health, education, charities, local employers, and prison staff
All having a shared interest in prisons successfully punishing and reforming prisoners 
Rooting prisons in their local community and bringing in outside expertise
It’s good enough for schools, hospitals and colleges
Why not prisons?
And who knows, good performing prisons could see their boards awarded more powers
Such as allowing them to appoint and advertise for governors, like school governors would do for head teachers.

Leadership is also key in prisons
But also crucial is the rest of the workforce
Thousands of dedicated staff at the coalface in our prisons
I pay tribute to their hard work.
But for many it’s become a de-skilled job 
When, instead, they could be key players in rehabilitating prisoners
Why do we always talk of bringing in experts to deal with education, training and mental health, when we could be using prison better?
I’m determined to restore the workforce’s morale and learn the best lessons from prison systems in other countries where prison staff are skilled up
I’ll sit down with the unions and the prisons service to see how we can raise workforce standards 
And I’m keen to explore the idea suggested to me of a Chartered Institute for prison officers
Accrediting staff, particularly for those with extra responsibilities and competencies
Recognising the professionalism of the workforce
And we’ll consider introducing ‘lead practitioners’ in the crucial areas like anger management, literacy, mental health and drugs

But there’s a quid pro quo
I’ll demand zero tolerance of corruption 
Labour will have a whistleblower hotline, independent of the Prisons Service
We’ll publish facts and figures on misconduct allegations – how many, what happened to the investigation and what sanctions were used against those found guilty 
And in prisons with a serious problem we need tough sanctions 
More searching of staff at the beginning and end of shifts, and even closed family visits
We cannot allow efforts to punish and reform criminals to be undermined by drugs, contraband and mobile phones finding their way into prisons, fuelling a whole world of crime behind bars. 
These bad apples damage the reputation of the overwhelming majority of prison staff who are dedicated and law-abiding
It’s in their interests too that we root out the bad apples

Proper accountability is at the heart of what makes a good prison
Bad performance must be rooted out, exposed and those responsible held to account
Lessons learnt from good practice need to be codified, and spread across the rest of the prisons system
At the core is the work of the Chief Inspector of Prisons
I want to pay tribute to the work of Nick Hardwick and his colleagues
It’s only because of their forensic investigative work that some of the horrors that happen in our prisons are uncovered
Such as drugs being more easily obtainable than soap in Oakwood prison
The forgotten inmate in Lincoln prison, 9 years beyond the end of their sentence
Infestations of vermin and cockroaches in Pentonville, a prison the Inspectorate said should be demolished
But he’s also held up good practice too
Like the Daycare Centre run for the over 50s in Leyhill Prison
And the effective Prisoner Council at Ford.

But I have to be honest
I’m exasperated that the rich inspection reports don’t receive the response they deserve
Their findings and recommendations are designed to improve performance 
Areas of best practice aren’t shared enough or elephant traps from Prison A avoided at Prison B
I want to correct this terribly wasted opportunity
I’ll place a statutory duty on the Ministry of Justice to respond publicly and transparently to reports of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons
With each recommendation addressed, and a published action plan for how the prison plans to respond 
Ministers, prison governors and prison boards might disagree with recommendations, but it’s right they’re made to explain why
Everyone can learn from this process 
The public confident inspection reports are taken seriously
And concrete steps taken to rectify poor performance. 

And I want to go further
I’m worried that the independence of the Chief Inspector isn’t as secure as it should be
Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons should be free of the executive, uninhibited by any undue pressure, if it’s to do its job effectively
The UK is a signatory of the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or punishment – known as OPCAT
To really embrace the aims and aspirations of OPCAT, I want to place the inspectorate on a footing independent of ministers
We will, if we win the next election, look at making the Chief Inspector of Prisons independent
This could be directly accountable to Parliament, similar to the Electoral Commission
Or linked in some way to the Justice Select Committee
We will consult widely with those passionate about this issue
And deliver the change we need to guarantee the Chief Inspector has the independence and powers he needs to ensure the inspection regime is one in which the public can always be confident

The fifth factor determining a good prison is rehabilitation at its core
We need to have a better handle on what success looks like, something we can measure, so that we can judge good and bad performances
The government opted for a payment by results model without any proper testing or piloting
I’m convinced we can build a value added measure for prisons – just as we can for school age children
How much has a prison done to help a particular offender address their addictions, their mental health problems, their literacy and numeracy and their skills, and face up to their crime?
With a baseline on arrival in prison, we should be able to keep track of progress
And aggregating up prisoner scores could provide a measure for the whole jail
This would be an added incentive for governors to do more on rehabilitation
And makes the prison system more transparent
I recognise there’s churn within the system, but with the value added measure attached to each prisoner, there must be a way of making this work.
We’ll work with key agencies and stakeholders across the landscape to look at how we can get this to function in practice

I’ve been candid about some of the challenges we’ll face on May 8th 2015
People ask me will I promise to reverse this, or do that.
I’m not going to repeat the Tory mistake of promising what I can't deliver
They said they'd solve the prison problem - but they've made it worse 
They promised control - but they've lost it
A rehabilitation revolution was planned but they've bottled it
So we know they'll leave us a challenge - but we will tread carefully
We'll assess exactly what needs to be done
That’s why I can’t commit to renationalise private prisons
That's why I can't commit to build lots more modern small prisons
And that's why I can’t guarantee we won’t close some prisons
I won't set a target for reducing prison numbers
I can’t promise to deliver everything on terms and conditions that prison staff might want
And I can't say any if it is going to be easy.

But I’ve been around the system, and I know what we can achieve
I can give you the assurance prisons won’t be forgotten under Labour
We won’t be happy with them remaining overcrowded and squalid
We won't settle for failure in public or private prisons
We will strive to turn prisons into engines of work, education and training 
We will work with our staff and train them to deliver what's needed
We’ll do all we can to address drug and alcohol dependencies, and make mental health a high priority
Stopping prisoners going on to commit more crimes has to be central to a Labour, one nation, justice policy
By having prisons that work by putting the emphasis on high quality rehabilitation, we’ll make communities up and down the country safer for everyone.

Sadiq Khan is MP for Tooting, shadow justice secretary and shadow minister for London.
Photo: Getty
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“If not evolution then revolution”: temperature rises in Catalonia as independence vote looms

Clashes between Barcelona and Madrid over the disputed referendum lead to protests and arrests.

Summer may finish today according to astronomers, but the heat in Barcelona has been steadily rising over the past few weeks. Things reached boiling point yesterday when the Spanish police arrested 14 Catalan officials responsible for organising a referendum on independence for the region. They also seized about 9.8 million ballots intended for this vote, which the Catalan government wants to hold on 1 October.

The Spanish central government, the conservative People’s Party (PP), is completely opposed to the referendum and has so far refused even to discuss it with the Catalan administration. This prompted the pro-independence Catalan parties in power to start planning it unilaterally.

On 6 September, the Catalan parliament passed the Self-Determination Referendum Act, which established how the vote will be organised and held. The question would be: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state with the form of a republic?” And since the electoral register can only be accessed by the Spanish authorities, whoever is allowed to vote in the Catalan regional elections can have their say.

Legal experts are divided over whether this kind of independence referendum is allowed by the Spanish constitution, which was approved in 1978. This was just three years after the death of fascist dictator Francisco Franco, and one year after the first democratic elections since the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War.

According to the constitution, sovereignty resides with the Spanish people. Opponents of Catalan independence claim it is therefore up to the whole of Spain to decide such a matter – and that in any case, it would have to be approved by the Spanish government.

But those in favour of the Catalan process argue that, given the complete lack of political will in Madrid regarding the referendum, the unilateral way is legitimate even if it may be declared illegal according to Spanish law.

As expected, two weeks ago the constitutional court suspended the Catalan Self-Determination Referendum Act, and yesterday’s police operation followed. Shortly after the raid began, during a government control session in the Spanish parliament in Madrid, prime minister Mariano Rajoy said “the rule of law has worked and it’ll continue doing so”. He insisted that the government was just “doing its duty”.

In this charged atmosphere, while Rajoy was still speaking, the MPs of the Catalan parties supporting the referendum walked out of the room, while those of the ruling PP chanted: “Leave here your salaries!”

Later in Barcelona, the Catalan regional prime minister, Carles Puigdemont, said Spain had “de facto suspended self-government in Catalonia and de facto applied the state of emergency”. Surrounding him during his speech, several other high officials looked funereal.

Applying further heat to the situation, the head of the Spanish tax agency signed an order on Tuesday that gave control of the Catalan public finances to the Spanish state. From then on, and at least until the end of the year, the Catalan administration isn’t allowed to allocate any money that hasn’t been sanctioned by Madrid.

However, the Spanish central government could still go even further and, using Article 155 of the constitution, suspend self-government in Catalonia – not de facto but officially. This extreme measure, never used in modern Spain, would in theory make possible what Catalans often joke about: tanks from the Spanish army would drive down the avenues of Barcelona.

Catalonia is the richest Spanish region, last year contributing 19 per cent of the country's GDP, while its population represents about 18 per cent of the total. It has long considered itself historically and culturally different from the rest of Spain, and yet just a decade ago an independence referendum would have been inconceivable.

In 2006, just 15 per cent of Catalans wanted “an independent state”. But that year the ruling PP referred the Catalan statute to the constitutional court, which declared part of it illegal. Then, after the PP won the general elections in 2011, the Spanish government started refusing to engage with Catalonia on the issue. 

Support for Catalonia becoming an independent state remains at around 41 per cent in favour and just under 50 per cent against. However, when Catalans were asked if they would vote in a referendum not sanctioned by Madrid, 67.5 per cent said yes, and of those, 62.4 per cent would vote “Yes”.

As of today ballot boxes are still being kept in a secret location, and Puigdemont and other Catalan officials insist the referendum will be held one way or another. In the past, the Catalan PM has said that if “Yes” wins, Catalonia will declare its independence within 48 hours.

For now the atmosphere is tense. On Tuesday, thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona to protest against the police operation, in front of several offices of the regional government that were being searched.

The biggest demonstration was next to the Catalan finance ministry, which was being searched by the Guardia Civil, the Spanish paramilitary police. Many protesters were carrying the estelada, the unofficial flag of the independence movement – some worn it as a cape, others waved it in the air.

“We are protesting against this unjust situation”, said 47-year-old sales rep Ferran Batalla. “[The referendum] is not an aggression, it’s an option to have justice, an option to ask the people what they think."

The protesters chanted in Catalan, “We will vote!”, and in Spanish, “We want to vote!” Some were distributing flyers that read in Catalan, “We vote to be free”, and graffiti on a telephone booth said in Catalan, “Voting is not a crime.”

In English a giant banner on top of the building that hosts the Catalan finance ministry read: “Welcome to the Catalan Republic”. At one point, police coming out of the building were met with deafening whistles before the crowd started chanting in Catalan: “Out with the occupying forces!”

“I don’t want to fight anybody in Spain, but we’ve reached a point in which we can’t understand each other any more”, said Batalla, who complained about the fact that the central government has always sternly refused to talk about planning a referendum. “When the state doesn’t want to negotiate, and doesn’t want you to leave, and doesn’t want to hear from you, and mistreats you… They think we are stupid, and we are fed up and this is over, because they are making us feel as if we are the bad ones."

In nearby Plaça de Catalunya just a month ago, barely a flag could be seen among the huge vigil following the terror attack on Barcelona. And if that proved to be a show of social and political unity between Madrid and Barcelona, today the Spanish government on the one side, and the Catalan authorities and many of their people on the other, couldn’t be more polarised.

Many Catalans mention the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, and the agreement with Westminster that preceded it, as an example of how things could and should happen. But the two situations are actually very different.

Catalonia makes up a far larger chunk of Spain's population and economic output than Scotland does of the UK. Meanwhile, Spain has a constitution that the government considers untouchable, while there is nothing similar in the British legal framework.

Late Tuesday, Rajoy made an official statement urging the Catalan government to get back to  law and to democracy, and stop at last this “escalation of extremism”.

"This referendum can’t be held, it has never been legal nor legitimate,” he said, before adding: “And every illegal act and every infringement will get its response, which will be determined, proportional and rigorous”.

The PM’s intervention was followed by a huge cacerolada in Barcelona and many other Catalan cities – meaning people started banging pans in their windows in protest. In the streets, demonstrations went on through the night as people tried to prevent the Guardia Civil from leaving the Catalan finance ministry. The protest was mostly peaceful, but police cars parked outside were destroyed while people chanted a rhyme in Spanish: “¡Esta noche os vais sin coche!”, or “Tonight you will leave without a car!”

Finally, at around 4am the first Guardia Civil agents started leaving the building. There were moments of tension between the protesters and the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan regional police, who opened the way for the Guardia Civil.

Wednesday began calmer, as both sides considered their next steps. The Spanish government remains focused on preventing the vote from happening, but has said it will be open to dialogue afterwards. “On 2 (October) we will talk and this new dynamic will take us to look for solutions because the coexistence of all Spaniards must continue in Spain... We’ll have to sit together and talk, and that we will do”, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, the spokesperson for the government, told Spanish Radio. 

By the afternoon, there hadn’t been word of response from the Catalan authorities, but having invested so much in the referendum and seeing the atmosphere in the streets, it’s not clear how they could backtrack.

In a bar in the Eixample area of Barcelona, right outside the city centre, people discuss the situation over their mid-morning coffee. “What happened yesterday was shocking, independently of whether one supports independence or not,” says 37-year-old Italian IT consultant Paolo Mosca, who has lived Barcelona since 2013.

“I understand that within the Spanish legal frame the referendum isn’t legal, I know this, but within the Catalan legal frame it is legal because it was approved in the Catalan parliament”, says Sergi Pedraza, a developer and who was born in Catalonia as the son of Andalusian parents.

“The only possible solution, because the situation has become unsustainable, is a referendum, but one well planned and agreed with the state”, says Álex Castaño, 28, also a developer, originally from Seville and who has lived in Barcelona since 2015.

All three would be eligible to vote and Sergi says he’d vote “Yes” while Álex says he wouldn’t vote. Paolo says he’d vote “Yes” because he understands and supports the will of those who want independence. But he and Álex say they’d probably leave if Catalonia becomes independent, because of the uncertainty of what may happen to today’s cosmopolitan Barcelona.

By noon the street demonstrations had resumed, this time in front of the Catalan High Court, where hundreds of people, many of them again carrying and wearing esteladas, were protesting against yesterday’s arrests. Loud Catalan music could be heard.

“The government in Madrid is insulting the intelligence of the Catalan people,” says retired businessman Enric T Coromina, who adds that he studied law and is “politically from the right”. He is wearing a barretina, a Catalan traditional red wool hat, and a T-shirt saying in English: “Make no mistake, I’m Catalan, not Spanish”. He’s sitting on a folding chair; has brought food, water and a blanket, and says he’s ready to spend the night here. He’s sure the vote will happen – he will back “Yes”– and will be legitimate even if not legal under Spanish law.

"If evolution is not possible from within the system, then there’s only one other way left and that’s revolution, civil disobedience,” he concludes, as more and more people join the protest.