TWO Scottish MPs have called on Europe to intervene in the dispute between Catalonia and Spain which has seen public figures and politicians jailed for almost a year without trial and other leaders exiled throughout the EU.

Inverclyde MP Ronnie Cowan and his SNP colleague Gavin Newlands, the member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, were speaking yesterday on a visit to Lledoners prison near Barcelona, where seven of the Catalan political prisoners are being held awaiting trial.

READ MORE: Ronnie Cowan – Dark days for democracy in Spain's Lledoners prison

Cowan was the only MP to meet any of the prisoners, whom he described as “inspirational”.

He said that four years ago yesterday Scotland held its own independence referendum: “We had a referendum in Scotland four years ago and I was doing what they were doing.

“The conversation has to go beyond Spain. Europe has to be looking at what’s happening here.

“They cannot walk away from the conversation.”

Cowan praised the courage of the incarcerated independence leaders and said he did not know if he could face it the trauma they are enduring.

Newlands described the imprisonments as “cruel” and added: “We could never have imagined that something like this could happen in the European Union. They are things from other times, from other places.

“If this had happened elsewhere in the European Union, the Commission, heads of state and governments in all of Europe would have condemned it.”

Writing in The National, Cowan said the prisoners had not used violence in the run-up to the October referendum, nor had they incited it.

All they had done, he said, was help facilitate and ensure a peaceful, democratic protest.

“The Spanish authorities may not have liked the message they were hearing but no people or property were threatened or damaged in anyway,” he said.

“I would hope that somewhere within the Spanish judicial system there is a person with sufficient power who can acknowledge that a Spanish democracy fit for the 21st century does not need to take such action against Jordi or the eight other political prisoners.”

The SNP politicians, along with Dunfermline and West Fife MP Douglas Chapman, are visiting Catalonia as members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Catalonia – of which Chapman is a member – made their own visit to the wealthy north-eastern state.

It is aimed at raising awareness in Westminster of the political situation in Catalonia.

The group is also hoping to meet Catalan President Quim Torra, Parliament Speaker Roger Torrent, representatives of several Catalan political parties and Elisenda Paluzie, president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC).

In a tweet, Torra did not miss the significance of Scotland’s own indyref: “Today 4 years ago Scotland lived his independence referendum, agreed between Edinburgh and London without any drama.

“In the polls won the unionism, but the victory was for all the Scottish people that enjoy international recognition of their right to self-determination.”

The United Nations, meanwhile, has urged Spain to “comply with the obligation” to extradite or prosecute those responsible for the crimes of dictator Francisco Franco.

Fabian Salvioli, the UN rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition, welcomed the decision of the Pedro Sanchez government to exhume Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen.

However, he said it should be followed by other important matters: “Comprehensive reparations for all victims, not hindering the processes of lawsuits committed in other countries and complying with the obligation to extradite or to judge the people in charge.”

Mariano Rajoy’s government in 2015 dismissed an extradition request from Argentine judge Maria Servini, for some of those responsible for the dictator’s crimes.

They included the dictator’s former ministers Utrera Molina, for the death sentence on Salvador Puig Antich and Martin Villa, for the deaths of five workers during a protest.

Salvioli said his predecessor had urged Spain to take similar steps following a visit in 2014. His recommendations included “resigning the Valley of the Fallen because it does not continue to be an opprobrious monument for victims of human rights violations committed during the age”.