LAST October’s independence referendum in Catalonia marked a turning point in the Catalan battle for self-determination, according to a journalist who has covered the crisis since it began.

Oriol March was speaking to The National at his office in the heart of Barcelona and told how the poll, which was a gamble by then president Carles Puigdemont, erupted into violence as National Police officers beat would-be voters with riot batons and fired rubber bullets at them.

READ MORE: ‘Catalonia is shifting towards independence’

March, who writes for online news service NacióDigital, which is regularly seen by almost three million readers, said he was on duty in the referendum press centre when TV stations began broadcasting the frightening scenes.

“I was in the international press centre at the Mediapro building when it came up on the big screens all around the room,” he said. “It was something we didn’t imagine could happen.

“The Catalan government knew before – the [then] head of the Catalan Police Mossos d’Esquadra, Josep Lluís Trapero, said there were going to be strikes from the [National] police. He advised Puigdemont and his deputy [Oriol] Junqueras to stop the referendum, but they didn’t think that was a good idea and then everything happened.

“I think October 1 is the turning point in the Catalan process ... then people thought that the future of the country was in its own hands and they thought the police wouldn’t do what they did because they can’t afford it – but they did.”

March said the subsequent violence changed people’s attitudes.

Puigdemont, he said, had believed that his political future was inextricably linked to the poll and decided to go ahead with it, but March thinks the decision was not a mistake. “After the events of October 1 support increased for the independentist parties,” he said.

“They thought there’s nothing like ballot boxes to spread the word and gain more support.”

According to the journalist the main problem has been the lack of communication between Spain’s government in Madrid and its Catalan equivalent – it’s thought the last meeting between the two sides was more than a year ago.

He said the Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez was unlikely to allow a Catalan referendum – he has reportedly ruled out any discussion of the subject.

Likewise, there would be no movement from him on the fate of the political prisoners and those in exile.

“In Congress in Madrid there are 350 seats, the Socialist party has 85 and with that number you can’t do anything you want.

“It would be a good gesture because if Sanchez said the political prisoners could come to Catalan prisons that would be good. But independentist people would think it’s not enough because they want them freed.

“The people in charge of the prisons in Spain could move all nine people to Catalan prisons this afternoon, but I don’t think they will do it.

“I think if Sanchez, or whoever follows him, is clever they will permit a referendum. I think that’s how it’s going to end.”