SCROLLING through social media looking at the pictures coming in from Catalonia in the last week has been inspiring – and worrying.

One in particular told a broader story. The scene: Catalonians sitting in the street, defending their parliament against anti-referendum raids being carried out by the Spanish National Guard. The protesters are flanked by a line of armed police, thousands of whom have been mobilised to occupy party offices, warehouses containing ballot papers, and the Catalonian government itself.

A chilling caption accompanies the image: “I have posted this picture in black and white, because it seems to fit a different era.” As well it might. The range of repressive measures being meted out by the Spanish state is a throwback to Francoism.

The cross-hairs of the Spanish state are fixed over every element needed to conduct a democratic referendum. From postal firms and printing factories through to political parties.

Indeed, the citizens of Barcelona, as they travel in and out of the city, are being stopped and searched for any trace of referendum material. Posters are pulled down and confiscated. Over 750 elected mayors face arrest. A junior Minister and his fourteen officials have been arrested. Offices have been turned over – again searching for any signs of democratic life – in a calculated process of collective intimidation and repression. Even newspaper offices are not sacrosanct, and have been raided without warrants.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is making the well-worn claim that he is standing up for the rights of all Spaniards. Indeed, the front cover of ABC, a major conservative-leaning newspaper in Spain, ran with the headline, Democracy is restored in Catalonia, amidst the repressive onslaught taking place.

The argument is that the referendum is illegal as deemed by the Spanish Supreme Court. This has been loosely interpreted so that it can embrace the full swathe of anti-democratic measures.

But what makes the present rupture remarkable is the degree to which Rajoy is ratcheting up direct and overt force in the face of the planned referendum. Their mission is not to rubbish the result – it is to prevent it from happening at all.

It has become a much wider question than that of independence – but one about free speech and the right to politically organise.

But it is only animating support for independence for Catalonia. There has been a simply massive response from the people, who have mobilised in huge demonstrations of opposition to the repression. The demonstrations are entirely peaceful, but they are noisy and determined. At 10pm every night the ‘cacerolada’, or noisy protest, takes place. The air beats with the drumming of pots and pans, it buzzes with the sounds of car horns and the streets are filled with ordinary people making a stand for democracy.

Rajoy may have overplayed his hand. Protests are now spreading across Spain under the banner: Catalonia, you are not alone.

The situation demands an international response that stands with the people of Catalonia. In Scotland the Radical Independence Campaign is calling for a major national demonstration on October 1, the day of the referendum, to take place at the Spanish consulate in Edinburgh.