Scotland politics

Nicola Sturgeon backs Catalan referendum calls

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionNicola Sturgeon tells Holyrood she is concerned by the situation in Catalonia

Nicola Sturgeon has backed the right of the Catalan government to hold an independence referendum as she spoke of her concern over attempts to stop it.

The pro-independence government of Catalonia plans to hold the vote on 1 October despite Spain's constitutional court saying it would be illegal.

Ms Sturgeon said the right of self-determination was an important principle.

And she called for dialogue to resolve the situation amicably.

Pro-independence parties who control the Catalan parliament pushed through the referendum law earlier this month after unsuccessfully demanding for years the right to hold a free vote on self-determination.

Catalonia, a wealthy region of 7.5 million people in north-eastern Spain which has Barcelona as its capital, has its own language and culture but is not recognised as a separate nation by the Spanish state.

A public survey commissioned by the Catalan government in July suggested 49% of Catalans opposed independence, while 41% were in favour.

And the Spanish government has previously accused the Scottish government of "totally" misunderstanding the legal situation there.

Arrested officials

Ms Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, was asked about the issue by SNP backbencher Ivan McKee in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

It came as supporters of Catalan independence gathered outside the high court in Barcelona in the latest protest over Madrid's attempts to stop the referendum.

The court is deciding whether to release 15 officials arrested on suspicion of helping to prepare for the vote.

Mr McKee described the scenes in Catalonia as "shocking" as he highlighted armed police raids to seize ballot papers "in an attempt to stop the Catalan people voting on their own future".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCatalonia's pro-independence government is defying a Constitutional Court order to halt the 1 October vote

Ms Sturgeon responded by saying that most people would agree the situation in Catalonia was "of concern", and called for dialogue between the Catalan and Spanish governments to try to resolve it.

She added: "That has got to be preferable to the sight of police officers seizing ballot papers and entering newspaper offices.

"It is of course entirely legitimate for Spain to oppose independence for Catalonia, but what I think is of concern anywhere is for a state to deny the right of a people to democratically express their will.

"The right of self-determination is an important international principle and I hope very much it will be respected in Catalonia and everywhere else."

Ms Sturgeon went on to argue that the Edinburgh Agreement between the UK and Scottish governments, which paved the way for Scotland's independence referendum in 2014, should be seen as a "shining example" and a "template that could be used by others elsewhere in the world".

'Rules of the game'

The Scottish government published a statement on its website at the weekend calling for the Catalan people to be given the right to determine their own future.

And a demonstration in support of Catalonia's pro-independence movement has been held in Glasgow.

Responding to the Scottish government's statement, a spokesman for Spain's ministry of foreign affairs told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that it was impossible for the country to follow the Scottish example under its constitution.

He said Spain has a written constitution, which was "submitted to the vote of all Spaniards in 1978 and approved by 87.7% (and 91.4% of the Catalonian voters), which makes the rules of the game clear".

He added: "The British case is an exception to an overwhelming majority of written constitutions that do not recognise this possibility.

"Recent judicial decisions in Germany and Italy have underlined the same constitutional approach as Spain.

"More concretely, according to Germany's Supreme Court 'there is no room under the constitution for individual states to attempt to secede'."