Two Unionist MSPs have been slammed after posting what appeared to be joke references to the increasingly tense situation involving Spain and Catalonia.
Responding to tweets from Tory MSP’s Murdo Fraser and Graham Simpson, Scottish Government Minister Michael Russell said he felt a “deep shame” that the pair should think the situation a joke.
The SNP MSP’s criticism was prompted by messages posted by Fraser and Simpson. Fraser, in a tweet, said: “Time to book our holiday – will be Spain as usual. Wonderful people – always feel right at home there.”
His party colleague Simpson tweeted: “Agreed. Us too.”
In response, SNP MSP Russell tweeted: “I feel a terrible sadness that two elected Members of the Scottish Parliament should be capable of such disfiguring tribalism given the human cost involved but also a deep shame that they should do so thinking it was all a joke….”
The tweets by the two Tory MSPs coincided with growing anger over the detention in Germany of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont after the Spanish authorities issued a European Arrest Warrant. Puigdemont was forced to leave Catalonia last year after the Spanish government began arresting members of his government following the holding of an independence referendum.
There was further anger in Scotland when it emerged Police Scotland were acting on a similar warrant and were planning to arrest Professor Clara Ponsati. The St Andrews University academic had only recently returned from Catalonia where she had been a minister in Puigdemont’s administration. Ponsati stated she feared she too would be jailed by the Spanish authorities had she remained in Catalonia.
In response, St Andrews University issued a statement of support, which read: “Clara is a valued colleague and we are committed to protect and support her.
“As her employer and an institution committed to the defence of free speech, we are deeply concerned by recent developments, their motives and potential consequences.
“In the current circumstances, we believe there are legitimate arguments that Clara is being targeted for standing up for her political beliefs.
“That is anathema to us, and we will continue to offer her every appropriate support, while respecting due legal process.”
Pro-Union politicians have challenged claims that Puigdemont and others are political prisoners. Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray tweeted: “It seems as long as you support independence you can sit above the law. Someone has been accused of breaking the law & should be given the opportunity to clear their name in that country’s court. We would expect the same so respect the law (even if you disagree with the law).”
Labour councillor Scott Arthur tweeted: “Fake news. Spain is not seeking to arrest “independence supporting politicians”, it is seeking to arrest people it feels broke the law.”
However Catherine Stihler, a former Labour MEP for Scotland, wrote to Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, urging him to condemn Spain’s use of the European arrest warrant.
Stihler said “I urge the commission to ensure the fundamental human rights of these individuals are respected when they come to face trial and that European arrest warrants are proportionately used where there is a significant risk to the public– such as terror-related incidents – and not with the intent to settle domestic political disputes,”
Meanwhile in Catalonia the situation remains tense with peaceful demonstrators being beaten by Spanish police, and video clips of police vans being driven at speed towards other protestors.
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