Leaders from across UK political divides have condemned "shocking" reports of police brutality coming out of Catalonia, where the Spanish government is attempting to suppress an independence referendum.
In violent scenes on Sunday, Spanish armed police fired rubber bullets at protesters and clashed with people who want to vote in an independence referendum that the Spanish constitutional court has ruled illegal.
Strong condemnation has come particularly from leaders in Scotland – which held its own peaceful independence referendum in 2014 – with both pro-independence and pro-union politicians urging Spanish police forces to use restraint.
The pro-independence first minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, who has previously urged the Spanish government to allow a legal Catalonian independence referendum, described the images coming out of the region as "shocking".
The first minister previously suggested that a similar agreement to 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.
Addressing the situation in Catalonia last week, she said: "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."
The pro-Union Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who was commenting on the first day of the UK Conservative conference, said: “Everyone will be shocked by the disturbing scenes coming from Catalonia.
"It's clear this is a fast-moving situation, but we would urge the authorities to exercise restraint. Nobody wants to see people hurt. If the situation in Catalonia is to be resolved, the answer will come through dialogue and diplomacy, and not through violence.”
The leader of the UK Labour party Jeremy Corbyn tweeted on Sunday afternoon: "Police violence against citizens in Catalonia is shocking. The Spanish government must act to end it now."
Emily Thornberry, Labour's shadow foreign secretary, said in a statement: "Police violence in Catalonia today is shocking, and the Spanish government should take action to end it now.
"While we believe disputes over sovereignty should be resolved in accordance with rules and laws, and any referendum on these issues needs to be both democratic and fair, it is unacceptable for the Spanish authorities to overreact to today's events through aggressive police action and the forcible closure of polling stations.
"They must respect the right to peaceful protest, and all sides must strive to come together and reach a political solution to this constitutional crisis. Violence of any sort will simply worsen divisions, and make a resolution harder to reach."
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, Labour MP and shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, and leader of the pro-Welsh independence party Plaid Cymru Leanne Wood also condemned the violence.
Tricia Marwick, the former SNP MSP and presiding officer [speaker] of the Scottish parliament, is in Catalonia as an international observer of the attempted referendum.
Marwick told BuzzFeed News: "People have the right to vote. The Spanish state are beating people up who just want to vote. The EU governments who have stood aside have enabled Spain to wreak violence on EU citizens."
SNP member of the European parliament Alyn Smith said he had written to the vice president of the European Commission to urge an intervention, and told BuzzFeed News he will raise the issue in parliament next week.
"We're watching events in Catalonia with much concern, and I call on all sides to remain calm and peaceful in the coming days," Smith said. "It is not good enough to say this is an internal Spanish matter.
"This is of EU-level significance, and the EU, much as it has very limited powers, should intervene to facilitate a dialogue."
A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office said: “The referendum is a matter for the Spanish government and people. We want to see Spanish law and the Spanish constitution respected and the rule of law upheld. Spain is a close ally and a good friend, whose strength and unity matters to us.”
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at email@example.com.
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