CATALAN President Quim Torra has attended the opening of the Mediterranean Games in Tarragona after leaving his decision until the last minute because of the presence of King Felipe VI of Spain.

The inauguration came as protesters marched and held a rally against the monarch over a speech he gave last October 3, in which he refused to condemn Spanish National Police violence against would-be voters in the independence referendum.

Torra had sought a meeting with Felipe to discuss the political impasse between Catalonia and Spain and had urged him to retract his speech, but the move was rebuffed.

He said yesterday: “I will be there today, these games are in Tarragona, in Catalonia, and have been organised and paid for in our country.

“It’s our home, they won’t push the president and the government of the country out of our home.

“The presence of the monarch will not condition our decisions, because in Catalonia, the Catalans are in command.”

Felipe is an unpopular figure in Catalonia, where a recent poll found that almost 80 per cent of Catalans disapproved of him and, on a scale to 10, almost two-thirds (60 per cent) rated him “zero”.

“I won’t take a picture with the Spanish king, the situation is serious, we are not interested in pictures with those that condone and promote repression,” said Torra.

He added that he was planning to give the kinga report from the Catalan Human Rights Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, on the police violence and the criminal “persecution” of pro-independence leaders.

Torra said neither he nor his ministers would attend any function organised by the Spanish crown and would not invite the king to any organised by the Catalan government.

Tarragona Mayor Josep Fèlix Ballesteros said he was “happy, grateful and satisfied”, that Torra had decided to attend the event.

Teresa Cunillera, the Spanish government’s most senior representative in Catalonia, said the games – which run until July 1 – would be Torra’s “first occasion to show institutional respect” since being elected as president last month.

Meanwhile, St Andrews University academic and former Catalan education minister Clara Ponsati will be at the centre of a traditional ceremony in Edinburgh this evening.

She will receive the Flame of Canigou as part of the Festival Sant Joan – which is also called “the night of fire”.

Catalan student Monica Pons, who is studying in Glasgow, described the ceremony for The National. She said: “The flame burns for the whole year at Perpignan Castillet and on June 22 is carried to the summit of the Canigou Mountain.

“At midnight it is shared among those present and, immediately after, it is spread and used to light the Sant Joan bonfires in a large number of towns, villages, and cities.

“It reaches every corner of Catalan-speaking lands but this year, due to the exceptional situation in Catalonia, it will arrive beyond its borders to denounce the exile of the independentist leaders.”

Ponsati, who is fighting extradition to Spain, will receive the flame at the Mercat Cross.