CATALONIA must prepare itself for a unilateral path to independence, but supporters will have to be better prepared than they were after the 2017 referendum, according to a leading figure in the indy movement.

Elisenda Paluzie, president of the pro-independence grassroots group the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) was speaking to The National in Edinburgh, after her fellow economics professor Clara Ponsati appeared in court in connection with Spain’s long-running bids to extradite her.

Last month’s Spanish general election left Socialist prime minister-in waiting, Pedro Sanchez – waiting – as he tried to tried to form a minority government with smaller parties.

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He agreed a coalition deal with the left-wing, anti-poverty Podemos, whose leader Pablo Iglesias has previously voiced support for a self-determination referendum in Catalonia, and has been seeking further backing from the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Together for Catalonia (JxCat), which Paluzie described as “bizarre”.

She told The National: “It’s a bizarre situation. Our association always says that when we have this power – arithmetically the election results gave this to the pro-independence parties – we have to use it to take steps to the final decision in the process of self-determination, the end of repression and the freedom of the prisoners.

“The problem is that he needs the pro-independence parties but he is also a prisoner of what he’s done, what he’s said. The repression wave has increased, there was a second wave of repression after the protests and demonstrations after the [indy trial] verdicts.

“What we call the barons in the regions that are dominated by the socialists are profoundly anti-Catalan, so it’s a difficult situation.

“As a pro-independence organisation we cannot give support to the Spanish government unless there’s a recognition of Catalonia as a political subject ... its national position and right of self-determination. We are very sceptical of that taking place.

“Some pro-independence parties might be open to dialogue on an agreed self-determination referendum with Spain, but we are sceptical because we know what public opinion is like in Spain, the parties they vote for and what these parties think.

“We think the Catalan independence movement should prepare itself for a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI).

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“We showed solid strength in October 2017, as we were able to organise a unilateral referendum on independence with the whole Spanish state trying to prevent it from happening. But we didn’t show the same strength in being able to make independence effective.

“We have to analyse this … be stronger and prepare ourselves for a unilateral path because unfortunately we think that Spain is not going to change.”

That referendum and a statement of intent towards a unilateral declaration of independence, triggered what’s known as 155 – then prime minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on Catalonia under Article 155 of the Constitution, and arrested and jailed ministers and civil servants and forced others into exile.

Paluzie admitted that Sanchez could take similar action should UDI be declared: “Probably but we have to be prepared to resist that and defend. In 2017 they didn’t even try to resist 155 and try to make independence effective. But of course this is only going to happen, to be feasible if we prepare ourselves better than we did.”

She added: “The extradition cases are important for the Catalan independence movement because, in the case of President [Carles] Puigdemont for instance the verdict of the first extradition case he faced in Germany was very positive.

“They said there was no rebellion, no sedition and they wouldn’t extradite him to Spain for these crimes. That showed the same facts when they are seen from an independent justice system, are seen completely differently.

“It is important that the case in Scotland also ends with non-extradition for sedition which has been the final verdict of the Spanish Supreme Court for Clara, but also for the cause as a whole because it shows the injustice of the whole Spanish system.”