HUNDREDS of thousands of people have descended on the Catalan capital Barcelona for Catalonia’s annual National Day, La Diada.

Although it is held to mark the end of Barcelona’s 14-month siege during the War of Spanish succession in 1714, the day has become politically symbolic as a focal point for the independence cause.

And Scots will be at the centre of it with 11 members of pro-independence band Saor Alba Pipes and Drums, fresh from their appearance at the AUOB march in Perth, playing in the middle of the procession. They have already performed outside Lledoners prison, where Catalonia’s male political prisoners are being held, and yesterday they played in Amer, the hometown of exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

This year’s Diada takes place as verdicts are awaited in the trial of political and civic leaders over the 2017 referendum – verdicts which are widely believed to have been decided already and expected to be delivered before October 16.

That date will mark two years in preventative detention for activists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, below, which is the limit under the law, although a judge does have the power to extend it. Two days before that, the European Court of Justice will hear the case of Oriol Junqueras – another prisoner and president of the Republic Left of Catalonia – who has been in jail for 16 months.

The National:

He was elected as an MEP in May’s European election but has not been allowed to carry out the preparatory functions to take his seat.

Last year more than a million people took part in La Diada and today is likely to see a similar number take over the city in a carnival atmosphere with a serious message.

Civic body the Catalan National Assembly is the main organiser and said yesterday that 400,000 people had registered for the day, a similar number to last year.

This year’s protest will call for unity in the indy movement as an “indispensable condition” for achieving its objective – Objectiu independència (Objective independence).

Meanwhile, Catalan vice-president Pere Aragonès has warned that the impending verdicts could trigger the creation of a “government of national unity” including pro-independence parties and those in favour of an officially sanctioned self-determination referendum to force a political solution. Aragonès said: “Our first option would be for what we call a government of national unity made up of all of us who want a political, rather than penal, solution – all of us who want a referendum, freedom for the political prisoners and the return of the leaders in exile.

“We could join together in government to force the state to open political negotiations.”