Protesters accused them of authoritarianism. So they accused protesters of "sedition".

Spain's beleaguered Conservative rulers on Friday further escalated their Catalan crackdown.

And they did so, their critics said, by living up to the very "totalitarian" jibes they objected to.

Shrugging off international and domestic calls for calm, Madrid authorities on Friday ordered more police in to Catalonia ahead of what they say will be an illegal independence referendum a week on Sunday.

Their pretext? Mass protests sparked by their Wednesday arrest of 14 referendum organisers, Spanish government officials said, had been volatile.

A Madrid government spokesman said that extra police were to "guarantee the security of all Catalans" and added that the entire independence process was "in the hands of the most radical".

For years Spain has argued that Catalonia - where opinion until recent days remained divided on independence - should not have a Scottish-style agreed vote to settle the matter.  

Now Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy appears ready to throw the entire force of the Spanish state, including its law enforcement apparatus, in to simply physically stopping a ballot.

Protests in Barcelona

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Prosecutors on Friday sought judicial approval for an investigation in to "sedition" arguing that mass demos against Wednesday's arrests were "tumultuous", a legalistic term suggesting protests were so troublesome they constituted an illegal act.

Independence supporters and independent journalists said the demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful and self-policed.

The Catalan Government - called the Generalitat, meanwhile, expressed concern that Madrid was using subterfuge to take control of its own police force, the Mossos, which have strong popular support after their recent actions against terrorists in Barcelona.

Catalonia's independence flag, the Estelada, draped over a balcony

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Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn said he was convinced that Madrid was planning an "undercover intervention" in the Mossos. The Catalan force had previously issued a statement saying its officers were in the streets only to provide public support.

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Raids on government buildings were carried out by Spain's Guardia Civil, a semi-militarised national unit.

Spain's education authorities, in yet another escalation, launched an investigation to see if teachers were allowing children to skip classes to demonstrate.

READ MORE: Scottish expert Michael Keating says no-one can win in Catalonia

Scottish-based expert Dani Cetra said the sheer scale of the crackdown could undermine pro-Spanish sentiment, especially as devolved Catalan institutions came under threat.

He said: "I think Madrid's actions are counterproductive; making the case for the union, rather than imposing it, would be a better strategy."

Pro-independence figures, such as President Carles Puigdemont, have hiked up rethoric against Mr Rajoy's government. However, so too have those traditionally seen as ambivalent about independence, or even opposed, such as the mayor or Barcelona, housing campaigner Ada Colau and the populist left group Podem.

A new banner was hung across the mayor's office in Barcelona on Friday evening calling for "more democracy".

Catalonia's PSC, its wing of Spain's opposition Socialists, urged "calm and serenity" from both sides.

PSC leader Miquel Iceta, said:" Political dialogue is the only way out of this dead end, in order for Catalonia to secure in self-government and financing, and for Spain to be transformed into a federal state."

The often federalist PSC, which is roughly the equivalent of Scottish Labour, has been squeezed by pro and anti-indy parties in recent years. Socialists in Madrid have largely kept quiet on the crackdown, though one party figure on Friday on TV called for 

READ MORE: Dani Cetra's lowdown on Catalonia

Dr Cetra, of the Centre on Constitutional Change, said: "The middle ground is not being heard. Lots of Catalans are now uniting behind a defence of institutions." His words almost replicate the headline of the Barcelona daily, Ara.

Ara

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Spain has developed a strong centralist and anti-devolutionist movement in recent years. This has the backing of Albert Rivera, leader of the anti-independence Ciudadanos party.

On Friday he compared the referendum, called 1-0 because it will take place on October 1st, to the attempted coup which hit Spain in 1981.

Mr Rivera, a Catalan, whose party took 18% of the vote at the last Catalan elections in 2015, said: "President Puigdemont is the only person in Spain who can stop this madness, who can avoid confrontation and can put an end to the crimes taking place.

"I am asking the suicidal driver to stop the car, put on the brakes and get out because Catalonia does not deserve confrontations."

Mr Puigdemont on Friday used an article in the Washington Post to call on "democrats of the world" to come to Catalonia's aid in a battle he characterised as between freedom and authoritarianism.

The SNP, allied to one of the pro-independence parties, Esquerra Republicana, has called for a democratic solution and condemned the crackdown. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday said she thought Scotland's 2014 referendum - and the Edinburgh Agreement which preceded it - was a good "template" for Catalonia.

Scottish unionists - despite previously warning of counter-productive resistance to a referendum and calling for a Scottish-style resolution - have not condemned arrests.

Glasgow MP Paul Sweeney tweeted: "If politicians have acted outwith rule of law, and only if that's the case, then that should be dealt with according to due legal process.

He added: "It's inappropriate for the Scottish Govt to be spending time pontificating on internal affairs of a foreign democratic power."

Those arrested on Wednesday were released on Friday evening. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont tweeted: "Friends and comrades who have been liberated after an unjust and abusive detention: your dignity is their shame."

Mr Puigdemont, clean shaven and black-haired in dark suit, leads protest march in Barcelona

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