DEVOLUTION is set to return to Catalonia after the seven-month imposition of direct rule by Spain’s former prime minister Mariano Rajoy, after he was ousted by Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) leader Pedro Sánchez.

Catalan president Quim Torra will swear in his new ministers today, ending the measures Madrid imposed after the Catalan parliament passed a unilateral declaration of independence in October.

Torra also said his government was suing Rajoy and his deputy, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, for abuse of power over their blocking of earlier cabinet appointments.

Sánchez has still to be sworn in as president by King Felipe VI after winning a no-confidence motion with 180 votes, against 169 against and one abstention in the 350-seat congress of deputies.

Rajoy’s humiliation followed corruption convictions last week involving former officials of his conservative Popular Party (PP). His second term of office was also dogged by the dispute over Catalan independence and the violence inflicted by Spanish police on would-be voters and others during the independence referendum.

Sánchez had to secure support from the Basque Nationalist Party (PNB) for the vote, and pledged to retain Rajoy’s budget measures, which Basque officials deemed advantageous, and to consider an early date for a general election. He also vowed to open a dialogue with Catalonia.

Albert Rivera, leader of Spain’s centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) party, told reporters Citizens would be “very attentive to the concessions” that were made.

Supporters of Catalan independence have cautiously welcomed Sánchez’s victory.

A source close to ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who is exiled in Germany, told The National: “Rajoy is out and that is good from a pure sense of democratic hygiene – he and his party have brought the Spanish state to the edge in terms of corruption and breach of human and civil rights – not only in Catalonia.

“On the other hand, not only does Sánchez not support Catalan independence but was a faithful and happy accomplice of the application of Spanish direct rule in Catalonia and approves the existence of political prisoners and exiled leaders.

“So, no big expectations about new era really from the Catalan perspective.”

Lawyer Aamer Anwar, who is fighting an extradition case against St Andrews University economics professor and former Catalan education minister Clara Ponsati, welcomed Rajoy’s removal.

“He has presided over a corrupt and draconian government which would have had General Franco cheering from his grave. Whilst this is good news, it is still very much business as usual for the Spanish state ... I suspect more moral cowardice from the Socialist Party unless they withdraw all the European Arrest Warrants and release all political prisoners without condition.

“In essence the PSOE might be Socialist in name but never forget they acted as cheerleaders for Rajoy’s brutal attacks on Catalonia.”

Monica Pons, a Catalan student in Glasgow, is worried about continued repression: “Yes, Mariano Rajoy is out and we can enjoy a little bit of justice in Spain. On the other hand, Pedro Sánchez is exactly the same as Mariano Rajoy, talking about repression against Catalonia. So, we must not forget that we have [Article] 155, and politicians exiled and in prison and an unbelievable use of repression. Now maybe can be the right time to talk and make an agreement.”

Indy group Catalans for Yes celebrated Rajoy’s removal but cautioned: “We do not trust prime minister Pedro Sánchez because of his unconditional support in recent months to the repression against the Catalans.”

And the Catalan Defence Committee Scotland added: “Steps must be immediately taken to free the political prisoners, allow exiled figures to return without fear of persecution, and end the police oppression of activists and their basic rights.”