Footballers vying for Spain’s oldest trophy will no longer be greeted by thousands of Scottish flags after a judge overruled a prohibition on a Catalan nationalist flag.
Spanish authorities lost an appeal against their decision to ban the Estelada, a symbol of Catalan nationalism, from the Vicente Calderon Stadium in Madrid during the Copa Del Rey final between Barcelona and Sevilla on Sunday.
Catalan nationalists have now cancelled their plan to distribute 10,000 Saltires outside the stadium and urged fans to turn out with the Estelada in their droves to celebrate the victory.
FC Barcelona welcomed the ruling as a victory for the “celebration of football and sport” but expressed concern at the continued “affronts to freedom of expression” by Spain’s central government.
The Catalan National Assembly, Omnium Cultural, legal association DRETS and the Platform for Catalan Sports Teams had planned to distribute the Saltire to highlight “the different treatment that Catalonia receives from Spain, compared with the UK Government’s treatment of Scotland”.
In a joint statement issued on the Platform website, the civic organisations said:
“We welcome the decision of the court, which has applied common sense and rescinded the prohibition by the delegation of the Spanish government in Madrid, considering that the Estelada does not incite violence, racism, xenophobia or any other form of discrimination.
“For this reason, we will annul the allocation of Scottish flags and focus on an appeal to the fans on Sunday to fill your section of the Vicente Calderon with the Estelada.
“This is the best way to celebrate the victory of freedom of expression, to demonstrate peacefully the Estelada symbol that identifies us, and will be a good response to those who restrict freedom.
FC Barcelona “expressed its satisfaction with the judicial decision to allow the display of Estelada flags at the Copa del Rey final”.
In statement, FC Barcelona said: “The club thus celebrates that the judge’s decision will allow the free expression of legal symbols and banners by its members and supporters.
“At the same time, FC Barcelona expresses its concern about the reoccurrence of situations like the one on Wednesday, and which are an affront to the freedom of expression, and do nothing to benefit what has always been a celebration of football and sport.”
Catalonia is an industrialised region in north-east Spain, with a distinct language and culture which was suppressed during the 1939-1975 military dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.
It has seen a recent surge in independence sentiment since Spain’s highest court struck down key parts of a charter that would have granted Catalonia more autonomy and recognised it as a nation within Spain.
Spain’s central government has repeatedly quashed moves for an independence referendum, maintaining it would be unconstitutional, and has made it clear it will use all legal methods to prevent the independence of Catalonia, which accounts for nearly a fifth of Spain’s economic output.
This position stands in contrast to the UK Government’s response to the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) drive for independence in 2014, when it negotiated a legally-binding referendum with the devolved SNP government in Edinburgh which returned a 55% vote in favour of remaining part of the UK.