ONE of the best-known figures to have emerged from Catalonia during its recent, turbulent times – Professor Clara Ponsati – has endorsed “massive” civil disobedience as a way to help settle the continuing dispute with Spain.

Ponsati was Catalan education minister at the time of the October 2017 referendum and nominally responsible for opening the schools which were used as polling stations.

The St Andrews University academic was one of five ministers who fled Spain with former president Carles Puigdemont after the vote and subsequent declaration of Catalan independence.

Spain issued European arrest warrants for them all on charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds, but in July 2018, a week after a German court ruled Puigdemont could not be sent back to Spain for rebellion, the warrant against Ponsati was formally withdrawn and she continues to live in exile in Scotland.

Her remarks came during a debate in Edinburgh hosted by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) in Scotland, when she was critical of the Catalan indy movement’s leadership.

“I think we reach a point where we will only really advance if we enact civil disobedience in a massive … organised way, but civil disobedience that has an impact on the powers of the Spanish state,” she said.

“Just wearing a T-shirt and singing songs and putting on nice shows – which was a very useful way to get started and of progressing – at this point I think it’s not useful.

“The ANC is the organisation that organises the September 11 [Catalan National Day] demonstration every year and it does that very well … but we need to do other things, especially if we want to undermine the Spanish powers.

“Making political progress requires that we take steps beyond that. We accept that Spanish oppression has not ended and we need to be ready to take it on again and that’s where wearing a T-shirt is not enough. It’s not having enough impact, causing any damage to … the monarchy, or to the Spanish government, so we need to think of other actions that do that.”

Panellist George Kerevan, a former SNP MP and a columnist for The National, agreed such measures had their place.

He said: “I was quite excited by the climate change emergency and the young people – they brought London to a halt and got the headlines. We shouldn’t shy away from mass mobilisation and civil disobedience.”

Douglas Chapman, the SNP vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia, said: “Any time we’ve spoken to the Catalans they have

always suggested something along the lines of the Edinburgh Agreement as a way forward to allow a referendum on self-determination to take place.”

Ponsati said the Catalan government wanted to move towards the republic, but added: “There are no clear proposals about what we should be doing to move on … We all thought we were living in a democracy … that our voting in a referendum was going to be respected. If there were reasons for independence before October 2017, now there is one single reason – our civil rights are not guaranteed.

“We don’t have leadership. We have a huge capacity to organise, but it’s not clear if the leadership a couple of years ago really wanted to take us to independence – maybe yes, maybe no – it was a bit confused. But Catalans certainly wanted to and managed to get through the referendum despite the violence and were waiting on the next step and it didn’t happen.

“In the next few months the organisations and the mass civil disobedience that is potentially cooking in Catalonia may erupt and make us move forward … That would push the political parties into doing what they didn’t do on October 17.”