THE pro-independence Catalan political party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) has withdrawn its support from the Spanish government over the "Catalangate" spyware scandal.

The coalition government of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has previously relied upon ERC support in the Spanish Congress to maintain its majority.

However, following the revelation earlier this month by Canada-based human rights research group the Citizen Lab that at least 65 prominent pro-independence Catalans had been targeted using spyware, the ERC has demanded an independent investigation into the espionage and the removal of those responsible.

ERC this week voted against the ratification of anti-inflation measures intended to offset the impact of the war in Ukraine – the first time since 2020 the party has withdrawn its support from Spain’s Socialist-led cabinet. The Spanish Government was nevertheless success in passing the measures, thanks to votes from the Basque nationalist party EH Bildu.

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ERC stated that their vote represented a “first warning” to Sanchez, and echoed Catalan President Pere Aragones in calling for the resignation of Spanish defence minister Margarita Robles, adding that the Spanish cabinet “has to take responsibility and guarantee transparency in the Pegasus case - a new case of political repression."

Robles has become a focal point for anger over Catalangate after repeatedly citing official secrets law to avoid answering questions over the actions of the Spanish Intelligence Centre (CNI).

Robles aroused further controversy earlier this week when, in response to questions on Catalangate from CUP MP Mireia Vehí, she replied: "What should a state, a government do, when someone violates the constitution, someone declares independence, when someone blocks off roads, when someone leads public disorder, when someone has relations with leaders of a country that has invaded Ukraine?" 

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A spokesperson for Unidas Podemos, the Socialists’ junior partner in Spain’s coalition government, expressed “astonishment” at the comments, saying that the defence minister had “justified” espionage, and said that “heads should roll” over the use of spyware against the Catalan independence movement.

Miriam Nogueras, an MP with the pro-independence Junts per Catalunya, also commented:  "The Spanish Government has spent a full week avoiding the issue and with their arguments learnt by heart, but today, during the fourth question, Robles exposed herself justifying espionage to the independence camp.

"This is a scandal, and we demand now more than ever that the issue be investigated. If the Spanish Government is not ready for that, they are accomplices."