Spain's Catalonian crux urgently needs dialogue
There is a strong imperative among the 7.5 million Catalans in Spain that they take control of their own destiny. But that view causes widespread distress elsewhere in the country which has a total of 17 autonomous regions.
The highly contentious referendum had been denounced by Madrid as illegal amid central government's strong insistence that Spain is indivisible. The federal Spanish authorities tried hard to frustrate the holding of the plebiscite organised by the regional government in Barcelona.
There was the spectre of violent clashes and widespread pacifist opposition by the Catalans. What happens next remained unclear last night as polls closed.
Catalonia is a well developed economy that contributes considerably to the Spanish central coffers. The area enjoys a high level of autonomy, but separatists say it is not enough and that they pay too much to Madrid.
The older generation of Catalans are more keen on maintaining the link with Spain. But a rising generation is more impatient and wants fuller control of their own affairs. There are understandable fears that success in this endeavour could inspire similar moves in the Basque country and elsewhere.
But some of what happened in Catalonia over the weekend harked back to darker days in Spain's recent history. It is clear that dialogue is the only remedy here as confrontation and violence achieve nothing.