As details emerge of Nicola Sturgeon’s planned visit to Catalonia, pressure grows on Spanish Government to re-impose direct rule

While first minister’s visit aims to strengthen ties between Scotland and Catalonia, the main Catalan unionist party demands preparations be made to reactivate the infamous Article 155

FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon will make an official visit to Catalonia in the hopes of strengthening relations with Scotland, several Scottish newspapers have reported.

The news comes as pressure mounts upon the Spanish Government of Pedro Sánchez from other Spanish unionist parties to begin preparations to reimpose direct rule upon Catalonia, following Catalan president Quim Torra’s remarks on 17 regarding the need to “attack the state.”

A report in the Herald newspaper, based on minutes of the meeting between Sturgeon and Torra at Bute House early in July this year, confirmed that the first minister had accepted Torra’s invitation to visit the Catalan capital of Barcelona. The Catalan Government has since announced that it hopes to set a date for Sturgeon’s visit in the coming weeks, following its own summer recess.

According to the National newspaper, the aims of the visit will include the strengthening of trading links, learning from the experiences of Catalonia’s secretary of foreign affairs regarding the creation of a national investment bank, and the Scottish Government’s advice on holding a referendum, based on the Edinburgh Agreement that preceded Scotland’s 2014 plebiscite.

READ MORE: Catalan President: We can strike a deal with Spain, but no negotiations 'in any circumstances' over freedom of political prisoners

A Catalan government spokesperson commented: “It’s true that the last meeting between President Torra and the First Minister was a warm meeting and they agreed on a lot of issues and there was a good relationship between them. The aim [of the visit] is to strengthen that.”

However, as the Scottish and Catalan Governments signalled their closer relationship, the main unionist party in Catalonia has cemented its calls for the Spanish Government to prepare for the reimposition of direct rule upon the Catalan republic, following statements from Torra which could be interpreted as a refusal to bow to Spanish law.

Last week, Inés Arrimadas, the Catalan party leader of the pro-union Ciudadanos, called on Spanish President Pedro Sánchez to ask Torra directly whether the Catalan Government intends to comply with Spanish law, and further demanded that direct rule be re-established under the notorious Article 155 of the Spanish constitution if Torra’s answer indicates they will not do so.

READ MORE: Spain withdraws warrants for Clara Ponsati and other exiled Catalan politicians

Spain’s Senate previously approved the application of Article 155 – which effectively suspended Catalonia’s autonomy and gave all authority directly to Madrid – following the Catalan Government’s declaration of independence in October, 2017. Direct rule was lifted in June of this year, once a new Catalan Government was sworn in.

Today [21 August], Albert Rivera, the Spanish national leader of Ciutadans, backed up the demands of his Catalan colleague, calling on Sánchez to “change allies” and join the “constitutionalist parties” which supported the Spanish state.

Rivera stated: “Puigdemont, Torra and Rufián [Esquerra MP] cannot set out the policy against the State.”

READ MORE: ‘Clara, we are with you’: Catalan President voices support for Clara Ponsati ahead of meeting with Sturgeon

The People’s Party (PP), which lost control of the Spanish Government in June after the passage of a vote of no confidence supported by several Catalan pro-independence parties, still maintains an absolute majority in the Spanish Senate, and has offered its MPs in a future bid to reimpose direct rule upon Catalonia.

The PP’s Barcelona spokesperson Alberto Fernández Díaz stated last week: "Every day that goes by, with a [Spanish president] Pedro Sánchez weaker and the pro-independence movement encouraged, we are heading towards a forced need for a longer and more intense direct rule.”

Picture courtesy of byron2

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