Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, has called on the Spanish government to stop its efforts to block the Catalonian independence referendum, saying Catalans should be able to "democratically express their will".
The first minister said she was concerned by reports of Spanish police seizing ballot papers and entering newspaper offices, and suggested that the 2014 Scottish independence referendum was the best example to follow in Catalonia.
Sturgeon's invention followed that of her external affairs minister, Fiona Hyslop, whose similar statement in support of a Catalan referendum was criticised by the Spanish ministry of foreign affairs for misunderstanding Spanish law.
Speaking at the weekly First Minister's Questions session at the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh on Thursday afternoon, Sturgeon was asked by one of her party's parliamentarians what her view was of "appalling events" in Catalonia.
"I think most people would agree that the situation in Catalonia is of concern," replied Sturgeon. "I hope that there will be dialogue between the Catalan and Spanish governments to try and resolve the situation. That's 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 seek 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 that it will be respected in Catalonia and everywhere else."
The first minister went on to suggest a treaty like that between the UK and Scottish governments for the legal 2014 independence referendum, known as the Edinburgh Agreement, would be the best course of action in Spain.
"The Edinburgh Agreement is a shining example of two governments with diametrically opposed views on independence nevertheless coming together to agree a process that allowed the people to decide," she said. "I think that offers a template which could be used by others elsewhere in the world."
Sturgeon's statement followed a letter being signed by dozens of Scottish National Party parliamentarians on Wednesday urging the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to intervene in Catalonia.
However, in a statement to BuzzFeed on Wednesday, the Spanish ministry for foreign affairs rubbished Scottish government suggestions that it follow the example of the Scottish referendum, saying that would be impossible under Spanish constitutional law.
"Spain cannot apply the United Kingdom’s solution for the Scottish issue: Our historical origins and our legal-political systems are different," said a spokesperson for Spain's ministry of foreign affairs. "The Spanish constitution enshrines the Spanish nation as a political and social reality prior to the constitution itself. Therefore, national unity is the basis of our constitution.
"There are established procedures to amend the constitution. Therefore, in our legal framework, a referendum in the form proposed by the United Kingdom to Scotland would only be possible if the constitution were amended."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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