AN SNP MSP has criticised the Foreign Office minister with responsibility for Spain after he refused to contact the state over Catalonia’s political prisoners.

It follows calls from the United Nations that some of the prisoners should be released.

Stewart Stevenson wrote in July to then-foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt following The National’s account of the second report from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD).

It called for four of the prisoners to be released and followed another which said Jordi Sanchez, Jordi Cuixart and former vice-president Oriol Junqueras should all be freed from “preventative detention”.

Stevenson, who represents Banffshire & Buchan Coast, said the WGAD regarded the other four detentions as “arbitrary” and in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Convention. He asked Hunt what action the Foreign Office and UK Government intended to take in light of the report.

READ MORE: Seven locked up without bail in Catalan independence crackdown

Chris Pincher, the Foreign Office minister responsible for Spain, replied a month later to say the Government’s position was clear: “It is a matter for Spain and the Spanish people.”

He added: “The ongoing trial of the separatist leaders is a matter for the Spanish judiciary.

“Political leaders, like anyone else, have a duty to abide by the law.”

Pincher said Spain was a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN’s Universal Declaration. He added that the UK Government expected all countries to uphold their international obligations.

Stewart was not happy with that and asked Pincher a direct question on August 16: “What message have you communicated to the Spanish government over their actions in Catalonia which have now been criticised and condemned several times by various UN bodies?”

A month later, Pincher replied that he had not contacted the Spanish government about the subject, but enclosed a copy of a European Court of Human Rights press release involving, amongst others, Carme Forcadell, former speaker of the Catalan Parliament – whom he wrongly referred to as “Carmen”.

“To answer your question directly,” he wrote, “I have not been in touch with the Spanish government on this issue. However, my predecessor has made clear the Government’s view in Parliament.”

Pincher also penned a handwritten note at the bottom of his letter, which read: “I make a point of checking and signing personally my own letters.”

Stevenson told The National: “The abuse of basic human rights in Catalonia by the Spanish authorities should concern everyone.

“I asked the UK’s new Minister for Europe directly: what message had he communicated to the Spanish government over their actions in Catalonia which have been criticised and condemned several times by UN bodies.

“His response – that he had not even been in contact with the Spanish government on this issue – was disappointing, but should perhaps come as no surprise from a representative of a UK Government whose Prime Minister advises the head of state to act unlawfully.”