Catalans demand that lawmakers form regional government

Thousands of Catalans rallied in Barcelona on Sunday to demand that regional lawmakers form a government that will continue a push for their region's secession from the rest of Spain.

The march was organized by the leading pro-independence grassroots group, the Catalan National Assembly, under the slogan "Republic Now!"

The region's separatist leaders unsuccessfully declared independence from Spain in October in violation of the nation's Constitution.

Pro-secession parties maintained a slim majority after a December election called by the Spanish government, but since then they have been locked in drawn-out negotiations on forming a government.

"What we are doing today is taking to the streets as citizens to demand that the republic that we voted for in October continue forward," rally organizer Agusti Alcoberro said.

Polls show Catalans are equally divided on independence.

Meanwhile, a fugitive former member of Catalonia's regional government has moved to Scotland from Belgium, where she and other Catalan officials fled from a Spanish court investigation into a secession plot.

Clara Ponsati, Catalonia's former education chief, said Saturday that she had returned to teaching at the University of St. Andrews. She appears as a faculty member of the School of Economics and Finance on the Scottish university's website.

Ponsati had been in Belgium ever since fleeing Spain along with Catalan ex-regional president Carles Puigdemont and three other former Cabinet members following the unsuccessful bid to declare independence from Spain. She has since renounced her seat in the regional parliament.

Ponsati and the others face arrest if they return to Spain.

An international arrest warrant had been issued for all five separatist leaders, but a Spanish judge later withdrew it. The warrant, however, could be reactivated.