CATALAN President Quim Torra has hinted that a new independence referendum might be needed in response to the sentences imposed earlier this week on independence leaders jailed for organising the October 2017 indyref.

Spain’s Supreme Court convicted nine of the leaders and sentenced them on Monday to between nine and 13 years for sedition and embezzling public funds.

However, addressing the Catalan Parliament yesterday, Torra said: "We are at an important moment. The victory of the popular will was the prelude to a wave of repression that is not over.

“Spain has responded with the criminal code and repression and has moved away from democratic standards ... If they sentence us to 100 years for providing ballot boxes, the response is clear: another self-determination vote.”

Torra expressed his “consternation and indignation” at the verdicts, and said there was no need to be an indy supporter to consider the sentences an “intolerable disgrace”.

His remarks came as a wave of protests against them continued for a fourth day – some triggered by Spain’s National Police Corps’ (CNP) use of riot shields and rubber bullets, others by a small minority of pro-indy Catalans.

Catalonia’s own police force, Mossos d’Esquadra, had been blamed for some of the heavy-handed treatment of protesters, but Torra gave them his backing. He said: “The only way to move forward in independence is non-violence. Violence does not represent us, we condemn it.

“The Mossos have to protect the population, they have all my support.

“They must be scrupulous with their performance. I have asked the director to investigate any irregular action.

“There are images that we have not liked.”

Unionist parties, however, called for Torra to quit over his government’s handling of the crisis.

Lorena Roldán, who leads the pro-union Citizens, the main opposition party, called him “irresponsible and unworthy of being president”.

Miquel Iceta, the unionist Catalan Socialists’ leader, accused Torra of putting “independence before peaceful coexistence”, while Alejandro Fernandez, head of the People’s Party, spoke of “savage attacks on Catalans”, while hinting at Torra’s involvement in organising protests.

The three days of protests have seen at least 80 people injured, half of them police officers. A statement from the office of Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s caretaker prime minister, said 33 people have been arrested. Four protesters have been jailed so far on provisional public disorder charges.

Yesterday began with new road blockades across the prosperous north-eastern region, including a motorway leading to France.

Tens of thousands of protesters faced off against police in Barcelona and some set up flaming barricades in the streets, torching cars and bins, while chanting: “The streets will always be ours.”

Sanchez yesterday appeared to back off from an earlier hint at reintroducing direct rule on Catalonia, and said the clashes would not provoke him into taking drastic measures.

Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators on a three-day “march for freedom” were expected to descend on Barcelona today, coinciding with a general strike across Catalonia.