The violent and brutal attacks by Spanish riot police on peaceful protesters in Barcelona have been condemned by two Welsh policing chiefs.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, his deputy, Ann Griffith and Dyfed-Powys Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn have written a strongly-worded letter of protest to the Spanish Ambassador in London.

It follows the broadcast of TV news footage showing riot police in Barcelona and elsewhere in Catalonia using batons and rubber bullets on people who turned up at polling stations to vote in an independence referendum called by the Catalonian regional government.

Arfon Jones, a retired police inspector himself, said the violence used by the police had echoes of General Franco’s dictatorship in Spain and he added: “I was disgusted by what I saw. No state should treat its citizens in such a way.

“It was brutal and cruel, totally over the top and unnecessary and it’s against the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The point to make is that 80 years after the brutal subjugation of Catalonia by Nationalist forces headed by General Franco in the Spanish Civil War the Spanish authorities have learned nothing about winning hearts and minds.”

More than 400 people have been injured in clashes between riot police and voters during the Catalonia independence referendum, according to Catalan officials.

Spanish police used batons and rubber bullets to remove people from polling stations across the region and seized ballot boxes after smashing their way in to polling centres.

The letter sent by Mr Jones, Mr Llywelyn and Ms Griffith was sent to Carlos Bastarreche Sagüés, the Spanish Ambassador at the Embassy of Spain in London’s Belgravia.

It read: “We write to you in our capacity as elected Police and Crime Commissioners and Deputy Commissioner for two of the Welsh police forces, North Wales and Dyfed Powys, to condemn the actions of the Spanish state to suppress democracy in Catalonia and to deny their citizens a voice in determining their future.

We believe that the police are there to serve the people and not the state and that police officers should uphold the rule of law and human rights and not usurp and undermine people’ rights to self-determination.

We would ask that you have regard for our condemnation of your country’s violent repression of those you serve and that you respect the clear mandate given by the Catalan people for independence.

Mr Jones said: “There were echoes of Franco’s regime. The police should be serving the people and not the state and certainly not beating defenceless people, including women, in such a vicious way.”

This week the regional leader of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, has accused Spanish authorities of using “unjustified, disproportionate and irresponsible” violence in its crackdown on the region’s independence referendum.

However Spanish deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, praised the actions of Spanish police in preventing the independence referendum from going ahead.

She described as “absolute irresponsibility” the Catalan regional government’s decision to hold the referendum and praised the professionalism of the Spanish security forces.

She said: “They have complied with the orders of justice. They have acted with professionalism and in a proportionate way. They have always sought to protect rights and liberties.”