Whilst she's speaking, Clara Ponsatí (Barcelona, 1957) carefully weighs her words. Her comments don't come off-the-cuff, nor do her silences. Despite this, she's become one of the hardest-hitting voices among the visible faces of the independence movement. During this conversation in Brussels with El Nacional after the launch of the Council for the Republic, Ponsatí doesn't mince her words when it comes to discussing that which she believes isn't working in the Catalan independence process, the government and the political parties.
The people lost their fear and probably there are many who are about to lose their patience, and that can be very delicate
What do you think of everything happening in Catalonia as you see it from Scotland?
I'm following the news minute-by-minute. I'm happy for what we've done this Saturday. It's an important act which opens up new paths for action, but I'm worried because I don't see how we'll keep moving forwards. It's very difficult for me to see how we can make progress. I believe that the people lost their fear and probably there are many who are about to lose their patience, and that can be very delicate.
You're one of the voices critical with the independence movement. Your comments have caused more than one shake-up...
I like to look closely at problems and I make an effort to speak honestly and say things as I see them, but nor should it be interpreted as hostility towards anyone. On the other hand, rather, in the face of certain perplexing things, I explain them.
It's very hard for me to work out what strategy the Catalan government is following, if it's following any
And what perplexes you the most?
It's very hard for me to work out what strategy the Catalan government is following, if it's following one beyond getting through one day, on to the next. It's difficult for me. I don't see what project they're proposing. The president says with great conviction that he's here to do the work, but I don't see that that's shared enough and that there are tools and strategies to do so.
In fact, the only concrete thing we've heard is to wait for the trial and to act after the sentences
What do you believe should happen?
My concern in part has a lot to do with my difficulty in making a diagnosis. Maybe if I saw things more clearly I'd say, and maybe I'd be able to persuade other people. I think that either there's more decided action or maybe an election needs to be called to give opportunities for the debate to be more explicit, because it isn't now.
In what sense?
If there really is a significant portion of the pro-independence movement that thinks that now isn't the moment for open confrontation, and I believe there is, they have to say so. And the reasonable thing would be for that to pass the filter of an election. I'm not saying there should be elections right now, but I'm very afraid that there'll have to be. Sooner rather than later. It cannot be that we say we're going to do something which we're not doing, but on the other hand nor do we explain what we're proposing. Waiting. In fact, the only concrete thing we've heard is to wait for the trial and to act after the sentences. I think that whatever action these people are thinking of for after the sentences, why isn't it reasonable to do it now?
There are no reasons to think that after the sentences they'll return the prisoners from Madrid
Do you think action should be taken now instead of waiting for the sentences?
I hear many arguments in favour of being concerned about allowing them to take the prisoners to Madrid and have them there for many months. There are no reasons to think that after the sentences they'll return them. I find that terrifying.
Do you believe they shouldn't return to Madrid?
I think we should consider it.
Opening the prisons?
Opening the prisons is an expression which is linked to the question of to what extent we're prepared to accept a trial in the Supreme Court in Madrid. Is it something which, institutionally, we Catalans have to be resigned to happening?
What do you think of the prisoners' hunger strike?
It kindles all my respect. When a person arrives at a decision like this, what you can do is take your hat off to them and give them all your support. It's seem to me an extraordinarily heartrending situation. I only have admiration.
During the presentation of the Council you became emotional talking about the prisoners...
Yes... It's very painful, it's brutal what they're doing to them and all of us.
We'll see situations of great tension. And I don't know to what extent the political authorities have enough moral authority, mechanisms and resources to respond to it
You say you don't understand the Catalan government's strategy. What do you think of its response to the tension which is growing in the streets? Some days ago there were the public sector strikes and demonstrations; on Thursday the demonstrations were political, with the use of force against anti-fascist demonstrators...
That's what worries me. To hope that from the government of the autonomous community you'll manage well and govern well and at the same time take steps towards setting up the Republic. It's very complicated when what you are is possibly an autonomous community under surveillance. The country is tense and we'll see situations of great tension. And I don't know to what extent the political authorities have enough moral authority, to what extent it has mechanisms and resources to respond to it. If now we have to resolve all the claims of all the sectors which were lost during the process of cuts, it's impossible. On the other hand, it's clear that the country is tense. What didn't happen during [Spanish government intervention in Catalonia], strikes of either teachers or doctors, now are happening. It's curious but that's the way it is and it won't be easy at all.
It seems that in Scotland they're taking good care of you and your case...
Currently I'm not giving them work.
Your lawyer has also become one of the faces of the international fight in favour of the pro-independence leaders...
He's a person with a great ability for media impact who expresses himself and communicates very effectively.
I don't believe we'll return to Catalonia until there's a real republic
And what outlook do you have for the resolution of your case? Do you see yourself returning to Catalonia soon?
I don't believe we'll return to Catalonia until there's a real republic. I don't see another scenario, because I don't see the kingdom of Spain agreeing on a democratic transition with Catalonia. I can't see it. Sometimes things move very quickly, but...
The republic can only come from the people in the streets and the institutions ending their submission to the kingdom of Spain
How should this republic be made if the kingdom of Spain isn't prepared to negotiate?
It can only come from the people in the streets and the institutions ending their submission to the kingdom of Spain, it can only happen that way. Both parts are necessary. The way things are, I'm inclined to think that the streets will end up forcing the institutions, but it could be that it doesn't work out for the streets and we simply have a few episodes of what we could call civil and popular revolt. I don't know. I hope that the institutions will be attentive if the moment comes. It would be much better if we are all synchronised.
You don't see much synchronisation currently?
Currently I don't see enough of it. I hope that from the Council [for the Republic] we can contribute to that, to setting up the link between politics, the institutions and the streets again, because we lost it after [last year's independence referendum].
Between Ciudadanos' bus with the photos of Junqueras and Puigdemont and Vox's rhetoric of horses and reconquista, nor is there that much difference
What do they think in Scotland of far-right party Vox entering the Andalusian Parliament?
They're so busy with Brexit they're not talking about anything else. To me it doesn't seem actually that surprising. Between the speeches that Ciudadanos gave with the bus with the photos of Junqueras and Puigdemont and Vox's rhetoric of horses and reconquista, nor is there that much difference. It's already good that those who think they are Spanish democrats are now a little shocked, but my word, they should have been for some time now. If that helps to reveal it, then they're welcome.