THEY said it would be a massive show of support for Catalan independence and they were not wrong, with police estimating that more than a million people took part in the Catalan National Day - La Diada.

People were packed all along the four miles of one of Barcelona’s broadest thoroughfares, Avinguda Diagonal, turning it into a sea of pink with their coral-coloured T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan for the day: “Let’s make the Republic of Catalonia.”

The call for the republic came shortly after 5pm when the Diagonal – which had been split into sections to cope with the crowds – erupted into a voluminous wave of sound echoing the day’s theme.

Crowds came from all over Catalonia – many ferried into the Catalan capital in more than 1500 coaches.

Extra public transport had been laid on, but many walked, including around 2000 bikers who parked their machines in the centre of the city of Vic and walked the 43 miles to Barcelona.

La Diada came almost a year after the October 1 independence referendum that precipitated the last 12 months of political upheaval.

Nine politicians and activists have been in jail for more than ten months awaiting trial on allegations of rebellion and sedition for their roles in the indyref.

Others fled Catalonia and are in exile in Belgium, Switzerland and Scotland, including deposed president Carles Puigdemont in Brussels and his education minister Clara Ponsati, an academic at St Andrews University and virtually an “adopted” Scot.

Joaquim Vallés, of the Catalan National Congress (ANC), one of the groups that organised yesterday’s event, said: “We have had a very tough year, almost a year with prisoners, among them the former president of the ANC unfairly imprisoned, and there are many people who want to call for their freedom.

“We are also making a big call for the republic, because we understand the only way prisoners will be freed is by constituting a Catalan republic.”

Mike Thom, a Scot who lives in Barcelona with his wife and family, told The National from the village of Viladrau: “I’m protecting the village as all the neighbours have disappeared in coaches and are on the Diagonal.

“I’ve been watching the day unfold on TV3 – it’s an absolutely astounding displace of a peaceful call for independence and for freedom for the political prisoners, to get them back home.

“The wall of sound from Palau Real to Glories was really impressive.”

Traditionally, La Diada marks the fall of the Catalan capital and the loss of Catalonia’s independence during the Spanish War of Succession in 1714.

However, in recent years it has become a rallying call for self-determination and, this year, for freedom for the political prisoners.

“We have come here today to demand once again freedom for Catalonia,” said 57-year-old Lourdes Casajus, who came from her home in the Catalan heartland to join the rally.

“Last October 1 we voted in a referendum and the majority for independence wasn’t respected.

“This September 11 we demand that all the politicians, both from there and ours here, respect the people’s will.”