A POLITICIAN who faced prison for her role in Catalan’s struggle for independence has urged Yessers “don’t give up”.

Clara Ponsati fought a dogged campaign in the Scottish courts against extradition to Spain after she assisted in holding the region’s 2017 unsanctioned independence referendum.

Speaking during a visit to Westminster, the Catalan MEP told The National she expected to see the Spanish kingdom broken up in her lifetime but said it would not “be easy to get people back in the fight”.

She said it was "ironic" that both the pushes for Scottish and Catalan independence had failed, but urged people not to give up.

“I think we have enough strength to get back in business," she said.

Ponsati, in her first English-language interview since her former party Junts struck a deal with Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez to keep him in power in exchange for amnesty from prosecution over the 2017 ballot, also revealed she was “briefly” arrested upon returning to Spain in July last year.

The academic, who previously taught at St Andrews University, criticised her former colleagues for taking the deal, accusing them of having “fallen into [a] net” laid by Sanchez in exchange for their support.

Ponsati said she was sceptical about whether the Socialist leader would hold up his end of the bargain, saying: “My view is that Sanchez has been very cunning in using the tools of repression as a way of getting Catalan’s political leaders to give up in exchange for amnesty.

“He did that in his first term, he promised he was going to pardon the people that were in prison and he got elected on the grounds of that and then it took him quite a long time to really materialise the pardons. Now he’s doing the same thing with amnesty.”

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Catalan independence was off the agenda for the time being she said, adding: “All Catalan parties keep claiming that they still wish [for] independence. Of course I can believe that they wish it but the question is [what] you are ready to do to make it advance.”

While Ponsati (below) was elected on the Junts ticket, she told The National she did not expect their support because of her criticism of the party.

The National: Catalan independence referendum

She will not run for re-election in the European elections in June, she revealed and said she would go back to teaching, hoping for a job in Barcelona.

The MEP, who served in Puigdemont’s devolved Catalan government as education minister, said both previous pushes for Catalan and Scottish independence had “failed” but urged supporters not to give up.

“It’s kind of ironic that both Catalan and Scottish independence have failed, have had very good opportunities and in both cases, they have not been materialised because, in a way, the battles have not even started to be fought,” she said.

Asked for her advice to Yessers, Ponsati said: “The same as I would give to Catalan: don’t give up.

"Bring new blood. Recognise your mistakes, criticise mistakes that your leaders have made. Don’t cover up mistakes it’s important to be aware of what has not been right. But other than that, you must hope.”

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And she was scathing about the response from the EU to Spain’s crack-down on Catalan independence politicians and activists.

“In a way, it’s a bit of a disappointment because probably Catalans were a bit naive, we all were a bit naive, hoping that Europe would be more consistent with its own official values,” she said. “But they haven’t.”

Giving an assessment of the state of the independence movement in Catalonia, Ponsati said: “Politicians didn’t follow the commitments, so people are very disappointed, I would say. Young people don’t want to get involved, so it’s complicated. It’s not going to be easy to get people back in the fight.”

But she insisted she does “try to” remain optimistic about the cause, adding: “We have a very long history, we have to value how much we have advanced. I don’t think that people have, all of a sudden, become fans of being Spaniards.

“People are just not very hopeful that the political, the immediate political future is easy. But people […] have not changed their minds. I don’t know anybody who supported independence, who went to vote in the referendum, who have come and say, ‘Well, now Spain is a good deal’.

“People are hoping that the political landscape will change […] but of course it’s difficult to see that right now.

“The authorities of the states are not going to just simply and kindly going to tell the people of Scotland or Catalonia, ‘Sure, go and have another referendum.’”

Ponsati said she hoped to visit Scotland – where she has not been since March 2020 – this spring or summer and said she missed her friends, her students and the landscapes.

“I don’t miss the lousy weather you have right now,” she added.