THERE is no doubt that an independent Scotland would be welcome into the EU, according to the minister of foreign affairs of indy-supporting Catalonia.

And, in an exclusive interview with The National as Theresa May starts Brexit negotiations, Raül Romeva defended Scotland’s right to decide its own place in Europe.

“Europe has been able to negotiate difficult and urgent situations, it has done throughout its history with pragmatism, and the case of Scotland will not be an exception,” said Romeva.

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“The British people have had the opportunity to exercise their voice through the Brexit referendum and in the recent elections on June 8.

“Now it is the duty of the government to find the most suitable formula that responds to the wishes of the different countries that constitute the United Kingdom.

"In this debate Scotland has to be able to decide and defend their place in Europe.

“The way Europe deals with the democratic wishes of its countries and its different identity groups will define its credibility when it comes to defending its own values and fundamental principles.

“If you want, as we want, a Europe with sufficient strength to project all over the world the ideal of an inclusive and respectful society with human rights, it is imperative to put into practice these values.

“Europe now has to listen to its citizens and consider the best way to articulate the diversity of its countries in a context of freedom and democracy.

“There is no doubt that if Scotland decides democratically to become an independent state that it will be accepted in the European Union.”

Catalonia is to hold a binding independence referendum on October 1, despite rejection of the move by central government in Madrid.

Romeva said Catalonia’s future was a matter for its people, adding that it was ready to take its place as a European state should its people want it to become independent from Spain.

“According to all the surveys, three quarters of the Catalan population want the referendum,” he said.

“The Catalans’ future is a Catalan matter, and asking them directly is how we learn how they feel about such a fundamental question.

“The government, and the majority of the parliament, is convinced that moving forward with the referendum is legitimate.

"We have decided to hold a referendum on independence, and so we will do it.

“We have the political and personal obligation to listen and provide an answer to the people.”

Four leading Catalan politicians, including former President Artur Mas, have been banned from public office by the Spanish government for organising a previous referendum: Romeva said the entire argument hinged on democracy.

“No-one doubts that Catalonia can vote to decide its future; unfortunately, the debate with the Spanish state is not about whether Catalans should be independent or not, but whether Catalans are able to vote or not,” he said.

“I want my country to be independent, but I especially want to live in a state that is able to resolve its differences democratically, and therefore I am also ready to lose this referendum.

“If the Yes vote wins, the result will be binding, and Catalonia will become democratically one more state of Europe.”

Romeva added: “When a political party can alter, by law, the function of an institution such as the Constitutional Court and direct it to rule against Catalan politicians.

"The door is open because these means could be used tomorrow against any other collective in the Spanish state, and this is a risk for all the democratic system.

“This attitude of the Popular Party government weakens democracy all over. They have to understand that the purpose of the laws and of justice is not to abolish or restrict freedom, but preserve it and expand it.

“We have put ourselves at risk to make this referendum possible and we will work until the end to fulfil our agreement.”