A SPECIAL event this week will seek to celebrate and strengthen the links between Scotland and Catalonia.

As well as launching this year’s Catalan Film Festival, the event in the National Museum of Scotland will also aim to highlight future areas of co-operation between the two countries.

It will be addressed by Francesc Claret, head of the delegation of the Catalan government to the UK and Ireland, SNP MSPs Clare Adamson and Kaukab Stewart, Catalan Film Festival director Rafael Cueto and Marc Dueñas, director of the London Office of the Institut Ramon Llull.

More than 150 representatives of the arts, business and politics will be in attendance.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Claret told the Sunday National. “We already have a lot of contact with the Scottish Government and have defined a few areas of co-operation that we believe could add value to the relationship between both nations.

“Besides launching the film festival, we want to relaunch this partnership between both our nations and want a wide audience from different backgrounds to hear that we are working on these issues and would love to continue working in this partnership in the future.”

READ MORE: Scottish band pulls out of huge American festival in Gaza protest

One area both governments are looking at is the development of green hydrogen and renewable energy.

“It’s not an option for any government to ignore what the alternatives are to fossil fuels and Scotland is very much ahead in terms of wind and turbine and maritime energy,” said Claret.

“We in Catalonia are putting a lot of emphasis on green hydrogen and have big projects in the pipeline to connect Barcelona with Marseille to send hydrogen to the rest of Europe.

“We would be coming, for example, to the German market from the south and Scotland would be coming from the north but in terms of the connectivity, the issues are very similar, so we are trying to work on how we can exchange lessons learned.”

New technology is another area in which both nations could co-operate, according to Claret.

“It is again one of those areas that adds value because you cannot miss the train of technology or you will be left behind,” he said.

The National: Francesc Claret Francesc Claret (Image: NQ)

“In Edinburgh and Glasgow, there are a lot of new businesses and new technologies, and Barcelona particularly has become a hub in southern Europe for start-ups, the gaming industry and new technology.”

Scotland and Catalonia are also very much aligned in their progressive approach to social policy, he pointed out.

“Scotland has been at the forefront of a lot of new initiatives that we are very interested in, like the Baby Box,” he said.

“Both governments share a vision of progressive social policies and there are issues we can put together.”

As well as introducing a rent cap because of spiralling rental prices, the Catalan government has invested in universal free childcare as well as care for the elderly who have priority in terms of hospital access.

Like the UK and other countries around the world, Catalonia is facing problems funding hospitals and the care home system but has the advantage of a pool of workers involved in the health and social sector, many of whom are immigrants from Latin American countries.

READ MORE: Scottish national whisky festival reveals dates and locations for 2024

“We do not share the same restrictive immigration policies of the UK so we don’t have the same deficit in that area at least,” said Claret.

A recent development is that money for the national rail infrastructure within Catalonia will now be devolved.

“The national rail system in Catalonia will be managed by Catalonia and we will get a percentage of the money for rail to manage that,” said Claret.

“Underinvestment in the infrastructure in Catalonia has been a serious problem.”

Even when funds are tight, Catalan language and culture remain a priority for the government and efforts to protect both have been redoubled due to the various threats that the language is facing.

“Our education model is very successful and praised in many European countries so we are continuing to protect it,” said Claret.

The National:

“For Catalonia, Catalan is not just a language – it is a matter of identity too so it is always a priority.”

Outwith Catalonia, the language is taught in more than 100 universities across the world, with courses in 17 of the UK’s universities – including three in Scotland.

The UK hosts the second largest percentage of the Catalan diaspora after France and many have made their homes in Scotland. While some may intend to stay permanently, the Catalan government has developed policies to make it easier for them to return home if they wish.

“We try to help people that want to come back so we can attract the talent that has left and is now all over the world,” said Claret. “We can help [with] placing your kids in schools and if you have a vulnerable social situation and want to go back, we can help you find a job.

“One of our aims at the launch of the film festival is to let Catalans know we have these services.”

This will be the ninth edition of the film festival, which takes place in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee and includes masterclasses and talks as well as a selection of Catalan films, many of them award-winning.

“We are in a golden moment in Catalan cinema and we wish to celebrate that,” concluded Claret.

More information about the Catalan Film Festival, which runs from March 21 until April 14, can be found at catalanfilmfestival.co.uk