Catalonia needs a second referendum with international support to give the public the opportunity to exercise the right to self-determination again. That's the position Catalan foreign minister Alfred Bosch expressed in an interview with the BBC's HARDtalk programme.
Bosch called for the Spanish government "to move" and "unblock" its refusal to engage in "any kind of dialogue". The Catalan government argues it's the only "sensible and reasonable" option to solve the political crisis.
Interviewed after a week of protests in Catalonia in response to the verdicts against twelve civil and political pro-independence leaders, he says Spain's Supreme Court made an arbitrary use of the law in its convictions. "In a 21st century democracy, voting cannot be considered illegal," he said.
In the interview with Stephen Sackur, Bosch has described an "extremely hard" week in Catalonia after nine of his colleagues were sentenced to a total of almost 100 years in prison for organising the 2017 referendum, declared illegal by Spain's Constitutional Court. Bosch said strongly that voting democratically on a community's political future cannot be considered a crime.
The minister gave the examples of the referenda in Scotland and Quebec. "In Catalonia, on the other hand, the problem is that the Spanish government has never accepted to negotiate this question," he said.
Bosch insisted that the Catalan government has offered on multiple occasions to sit down with its Spanish counterpart and talk. "But they've always rejected any kind of dialogue", instead, he says, "they send pro-independence political leaders to prison and into exile".
He criticised some of the actions by police during the last week's protests, saying that he is "proud" of the public: "thousands of citizens risked their bodies placing themselves between the demonstrators and the security forces."
Bosch did accept that "there are differences in Catalan society", arguing that "it's precisely for that reason that we have to vote". He said that "80% of the population of Catalonia wants to vote, and it's unjust to put people in prison for their ideas. Does anything think that Sánchez really is a moderate, when he refuses to sit down at the table and negotiate whilst civil and political rights are being violated?" "Our proposal is a negotiated referendum with international validation. If they say we're less than 50%, where's the problem in holding a referendum and checking?"
Whilst in London, Bosch also met with a number of MPs, including Joanna Cherry (SNP), Hywel Williams (Plaid Cymru) and Daniel Kawczynski (Conservatives).
Translator's note: Without having had access to the original interview, the minister's quotes have been back-translated from Catalan, so are not word-for-word transcriptions.