TWO of the four candidates in the SNP’s depute leadership contest called for action to stop a Spanish bid to extradite the St Andrews academic and former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati.

Leading activist Julie Hepburn and Inverclyde Council SNP group leader Chris McEleny attacked the move by Spanish judges, with the former saying any moves open to the Scottish Government to stop the extradition should be used while the later urged the EU to intervene.

The Spanish authorities are pursuing Catalan leaders for their role in holding an independence referendum.

READ MORE: St Andrew's University comes out fighting for Clara Ponsati

Ponsati, along with other politicians in Catalonia, faces charges of rebellion with violence which could see her spend 30 years in jail.

“What’s happening to democratically elected representatives from Catalonia, who have pursued a peaceful and democratic means to gain independence, is shocking and should be of concern to all who value our fundamental human rights and democracy,” said Hepburn.

“We have someone in Scotland who needs our protection and we must live up to our responsibilities to protect her human rights. So whatever legal means are open to our Scottish Government and authorities must be pursued, but as citizens we must also do whatever we can, peacefully and democratically, to prevent Clara Ponsati from being removed from Scotland and handed over to the Spanish authorities.”

McEleny called for the European Union to intervene and said the SNP should not be afraid of “letting the Spanish government know that we will not allow political prisoners on our watch”.

“We must not be afraid of our future relationship with the EU and we must let the Spanish Government know we will not allow political prisoners on our watch. No to fascism,” he added.

“It is the policy of the EU to intervene when necessary to prevent conflict or to respond to emerging or actual crises. What we have in Catalonia and Spain is clearly a democratic crisis. A fundamental and overarching objective of the EU is to defend democratic principles and human rights. Locking up elected leaders for promoting democracy is a clear violation of its founding principles.”

Economy Secretary Keith Brown stopped short of calling for action to stop the extradition, but condemned the actions of the Spanish government in Catalonia. “I oppose the actions of the Spanish government over Catalonia; the use of force against people taking part in the referendum and the attempts to prevent the vote are contrary to how I believe politics should be conducted,” he said.

”I’m surprised to see a modern European state seek the arrest and imprisonment of politicians who advocate independence and I oppose those actions.”

He added: “Scotland’s police, courts and judiciary are obliged to cooperate with European Arrest Warrants.

Politicians do not and should not have a role in directing the day-to-day operations of the police or the courts in Scotland; decisions on court cases and the way in which they are handled are matters for the courts to rule on. I can’t and won’t say anything that might impact upon the integrity of the judicial process.”

James Dornan MSP, said: “I’m extremely disappointed by the continuing vindictive behaviour by the Spanish government. Clara Ponsati has been a good friend to Scotland and does not deserve to be hounded in this way for supporting the democratic rights of the people of Catalonia.

There is clearly a legal process to be gone through here in Scotland and I’m hopeful that with the good judgement of our legal system she will not be be extradited to Spain and will be allowed to get on with her life.”