NICOLA Sturgeon said yesterday that she was appalled by the outcome of the trials of the independence leaders and that Catalonia’s future should be decided through the ballot box and not in the courts.

Speaking from her party’s conference, the SNP leader said: “I am appalled by today’s outcome. These politicians have been jailed for seeking to allow the people of Catalonia to peacefully choose their own future. Any political system that leads to such a dreadful outcome needs urgent change. The future of Catalonia should be decided through the ballot box – not in the courts.

“While it is not for us to take a view on the future of Catalonia, we do have a view on the upholding of democratic expression and civil rights – and have a duty to speak up whenever and wherever those rights are under attack.

“Our thoughts and solidarity are with those sentenced today and their families. We will continue to encourage the Spanish and Catalan governments to resolve their differences by mutually agreed democratic means.”

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A motion from Young Scots for Independence summarised the views of many at the conference in Aberdeen. It read: “Conference deplores the announcement today by the Spanish courts of their condemnation of politicians from the former Catalan Government and public figures, including Oriol Junqueras and Carme Forcadell, to many decades of imprisonment on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds.

“Conference believes that the situation must be – and can only be – resolved politically, peacefully, and through dialogue ... resolves to stand in the spirit of solidarity with the independence movement in Catalonia, and reiterates our commitment to democracy for people across the World and the exercising of the right to self determination.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said it was an outrage, and added: “We stand in solidarity with those who have argued for self-determination for Catalonia and for that ‘crime’ are to be imprisoned. Democracy and the right to self-determination must prevail.”

Catalan President Quim Torra rejected the verdict and pointed out that Spain has endorsed international treaties giving territories the right to self-determination. He added: “This is an act of vengeance and not justice. “Individuals who have always acted in a strictly democratic and absolutely peaceful manner have been sentenced.

“Holding a referendum is not a crime. The right to self-determination is a right of nations recognised in international treaties signed by the Kingdom of Spain.”

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SNP MP Ronnie Cowan, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Catalonia, said: “The imprisonment of nine individuals found guilty of sedition is an affront to democracy and should bring shame on the Spanish Supreme Court.”

Unrepentant Spanish judicial authorities last night moved to bring former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont back to Spain from his exile in Brussels.

They issued a fresh European Arrest Warrant against Puigdemont, despite the previous failure of such measures against him, and former ministers Tony Comin and Clara Ponsati, in Belgium and Scotland respectively.

The new warrant issued by Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena is for sedition and misuse of public funds, the charges on which the independence leaders were convicted yesterday. The move will trigger fresh judicial proceedings in the Belgian courts, should Puigdemont remain in the country.”