CAMPAIGNERS for Catalonia’s independence have not given up their struggle and are continuing to organise demonstrations, albeit using social distancing measures, a group of MPs has been told.

Elisenda Paluzie, president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), was speaking to an online meeting of Westminster’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Catalonia, when she showed images of recent demos in several cities.

People must maintain a one-metre distance from each other as part of anti-coronavirus measures throughout Spain, so the protests are a far cry from the hundreds of thousands we have seen taking to the streets in recent years.

“We have started demonstrating again in the streets,” said Paluzie. “So we were doing that with small concentrations of people and with physical distancing.

“And we designed some [banners and] stuff that’s not to be used by several people, just individuals.”

Catalonia’s National Day, La Diada, on September 11 marks the fall of Barcelona in the 1714 War of the Spanish Succession and is the biggest day in its calendar.

It has also become more of a focus for the independence movement. Organisers were hoping to attract up to a million people for this year’s event.

However, with everyone appraising the new idea of “normal”, Paluzie said they were looking at alternatives, including the staging of “decentralised” gatherings.

“Now we have to decide what to do for September 11 for the National Day where we have the mass consciousness demonstrations in Barcelona.

“We hoped for a million people this year, but this is not possible.

“We will organise something that has to be decentralised, so we will do demonstrations in every town in Catalonia.

“We still have to decide how, what exactly is going to be the action that people in all cities in Catalonia will take part in, so if you have any ideas … We have to be creative and it will be difficult.”

Paluzie was critical of the Spanish government’s decision to delay locking down Madrid, which she said had led to an exodus of people to their second homes in Catalonia and other northern and coastal areas – in much the same way as Scotland and Wales have witnessed.

While she said some work was restarting, such as construction, she had fears for the economy.

“Construction was subject to a total lockdown … only for two weeks. So after the Easter break which is quite important here we went back to a partial lockdown where companies could, if they wanted, work again.

“Now they are authorised to reopen with measures like not using social rooms, things like that. I don’t know … the exact rules concerning the reopening of hotels, but things are gradually opening again.

“But the impact will be important, we’ll see how many business will close … It’s going to be a bad year. Some will keep operating, and others, I think, it mostly depends on the financial situation they had before.

“If they were very healthy they will survive. If not, it’s going to be difficult for them.”