THE precedent set by the Scottish independence referendum left Catalonian leaders completely unprepared for the "brutal" aftermath of last month's vote.

Senior separatist figures said they were inspired by how the UK handled the 2014 poll – but were left shocked by Spain's heavy-handed backlash.

Spain has imposed direct rule on Catalonia since October's banned referendum, sacking the autonomous government and jailing some leaders.

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But one leading pro-independence politician told The Herald Catalonia would be a fully-functioning state in a "maximum" of one or two years.

Josep-Maria Terricabras MEP, of the Republican Left of Catalonia party, insisted the current situation could not be maintained.

Asked when he thinks Catalonia will become a full republic, he said: "Perhaps not in two months as we have wished.

"Perhaps in one year or two – but no more than that. Because a divorce has to be solved in a short time."

The respected academic said he had "expected a tough reaction from Spain, of course, and from the Spanish Government – but not that brutal".

He said Scotland had carried out a "civilised" vote, sanctioned by Westminster because it was the democratic thing to do.

But in Spain, Mr Terricabras insisted, "the sheer idea of contesting the unity of Spain is terrible – they can't stand that."

He suggested Spain should have been encouraged by Scotland's referendum, since the pro-independence side lost.

Ramon Tremosa MEP, a well-known economist from the Catalan European Democratic Party, insisted the reaction at home and abroad was "not the reaction we thought".

He added: "Because we could imagine that the precedent created by Scotland, the Scottish referendum, would be the same for Catalonia.

"This was our mistake. We thought [Spain] would at least not behave as they have done.

"We thought that in the European framework in the 21st century, military solutions would not be on the ground.

"We were not prepared. We have no army, no guns, and no will to be on the streets to have a fight."

He said Catalans were "of course" inspired by what took place in Scotland, adding: "We had the model of the two referendums in Quebec and of course we had the impact of the Scottish referendum.

"We said, 'Wow, look, it is possible that it's agreed, the solution between governments of London and Edinburgh, it is possible that there is a white paper on independence published, the Bank of England saying that if the Yes vote wins it will guarantee for the years of negotiation to come 100 per cent of British public debt to avoid tensions in the markets. It was fantastic to follow that fair play."

Around 90 per cent of Catalan voters backed independence at last month's referendum, but turnout was low and Spanish police were widely criticised for their use of violence.

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is currently in exile in Belgium, is now facing possible extradition to Spain amid charges of sedition and misuse of state funds.

Both Mr Terricabras and Mr Tremosa raised fears over the rise of "fascism", and criticised the EU for not intervening – insisting its silence had dented pro-Europe support in Catalonia.

Mr Tremosa said "groups of neo-Nazis" are "threatening and beating people in the streets with the total complicity of the Spanish police, who have not arrested anybody".

He added: "There are threats in the media, the shutdown of websites. This is Spain in 2017. These are facts, not opinions."

He said he had sent letters to the eight Catalan ministers currently behind bars. Two were MEPs he had worked closely alongside for years.

"Spain didn't say before October 1 that they would send thousands of policemen to beat peaceful people – young ladies and old people – in the way they did," he said.

"We hadn't seen that before in Spain. And the referendum was a mandate.

"Of course we were surprised. We thought this was not behaviour allowed in the 21st century within the European Union.

"Imagine if an English party did the same, that the English military repressed in that way SNP voters.

"This is the situation. We are still in shock to see how it is presented as natural."