Catalan president in Scotland to meet Sturgeon


Thu, Jul 12, 2018 - Page 7

After years of holding Catalan separatists at arm’s length, despite obvious sympathy for their cause, Scotland’s pro-independence First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was yesterday to meet Catalan President Quim Torra for the first time.

Torra is visiting Scotland and was also to meet with Clara Ponsati, a former Catalan minister who is fighting an extradition request by Spain on charges of “violent rebellion” for her role in Catalonia’s failed independence bid last year.

Ponsati, a 61-year-old professor of political economy at the University of St Andrews, has been released on bail as she challenges the extradition through the Spanish courts.

Torra and Ponsati were due to hold a news conference in Edinburgh, after which Torra was to meet Sturgeon at her official residence in Bute House.

The meeting between Torra and Sturgeon is possible thanks to “a degree of normality” returning to Catalonia after last year’s events, said Michael Keating, professor of political science at the University of Aberdeen.

There is a long-running affinity between Scottish and Catalan separatists.

When Scotland held its independence referendum in 2014, in which the unionist cause won by 55 percent to 45 percent, hundreds of Catalans came to aid the independence campaign.

During Catalonia’s own bid last year there were demonstrations of support in the streets of Scotland and several lawmakers from Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party traveled to Catalonia as observers of the vote.

Sturgeon at the time expressed her concern about the crackdown in Catalonia by Spanish authorities, defending the international principle of self-determination.

However, she has kept the Catalan cause at arm’s length, keen to underline the legal basis of Scotland’s own efforts.

“The Scottish nationalists have followed the path of legality very, very carefully,” Keating said.

Sturgeon has to act “very carefully” also because she might be preparing to renew pro-EU Scotland’s independence bid as Brexit looms and is concerned about Spanish approval if it seeks to join the EU, Keating said.

“That issue hasn’t gone away,” he said.