In a televised statement on Saturday afternoon, the regional interior minister in Catalonia, Joaquim Forn, announced that the Catalan government will not obey the "unacceptable" decision to place the regional police force, the Mossos, under instructions from Madrid.

"We denounce the attempt to take over of the Mossos d'Esquadra, as they did with Catalan government finances", said Mr. Forn: "In the Catalan government, we do not accept this interference by the state".

During a meeting of police forces on Saturday morning in Barcelona, the head of the Catalan Police, Major Josep Lluis Trapero, refused to accept instructions placing his officers under the control of a Civil Guard Colonel appointed by the Home Office to oversee all anti-referendum policing in the region.

"The head of the Mossos said the force will not accept coordination by the representative of the Spanish state", said Mr. Forn.

He said the regional interior ministry's legal services were drawing up a legal response to the central government's announcement, which was based on a 1986 Security Forces Act, allowing state police forces to take control of regional ones when the situation demands it.

Mr. Forn asked citizens to be "very calm" after the announcement, "because the Mossos d'Esquadra will never give up on exercising powers that belong to it".

The Spanish government had earlier characterised the instructions not as a formal take over of the regional police force but rather as specific central anti-referendum coordination of all three police forces operating in the region: the Civil Guard, the National Police and the Mossos.

The local police in Barcelona, the Guardia Urbana, were also present at Saturday morning's meeting.