ONE of Scotland’s foremost lawyers has launched a blistering attack on the Spanish government after he was accused in a “diplomatic” email of attracting Muslims to the SNP to gain influence and using his appointment as rector of Glasgow University as a “political catapult”.

Aamer Anwar said the comments – included in papers submitted to a Madrid court by lawyers acting for a sacked consul general to Scotland – would be laughable, were they not rooted in such dangerous “racism and bigotry”.

The documents relate to the case of Miguel Angel Vecino, who was sacked by Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell because of a letter he wrote to Nicola Sturgeon suggesting that Spain would not object to an independent Scotland joining the EU.

Papers lodged in the court – and seen by the Spanish digital newspaper Vozpopuli – emerged earlier this week, among them emails concerning Anwar.

He is acting for former Catalan education minister Clara Ponsati, the University of St Andrews economics professor who is fighting deportation over her part in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum.

In one email to Borrell’s chief of staff Camilo Villarino, Vecino said Anwar “mixes both the independence of Catalonia and the claim of Ceuta and Melilla [tiny Spanish enclaves on the northern shores of Morocco’s Mediterranean coast which Madrid claims are integral parts of Spain] defending that Spain has to be recovered by Islam”.

A profile of the lawyer by the diplomat, which said he was “of Pakistani origin, professes the Muslim religion and is very active in the networks”, was included in the email, written shortly after the start of the trial of independence leaders at Spain’s Supreme court in February.

It also included a tweet from Anwar and a picture of him and Ponsati outside a court in Edinburgh after she was bailed following an attempt by Spain to extradite her from Scotland.

Vecino noted demonstrations in Edinburgh and Glasgow backing the independence leaders on trial and added that the person who “articulates the protest in Glasgow against Spain” was Anwar.

He said the lawyer had started his three-year term as rector of the University of Glasgow in 2017 and wanted to use it as “a political catapult” for next year, when new elections to lead the institution are to be held.

According to Vecino’s email, Anwar began his move from law into politics with Labour, and then the SNP, “by not making political progress in that one”. The diplomat’s disparaging note added that Anwar was “not much appreciated” within the Pakistani community, “which is clearly used for his political purposes, without ever having really done anything for it”.

And to gain influence in the SNP, it said he had “attracted Muslims” to the party, “becoming the leader of the Islamist group, pretending to have a political weight that obviously fails to reach”.

Vecino claimed Anwar was about to be struck off “two years ago for insulting the court”, and was now “presented as one of the best criminal lawyers in Scotland, but he is far of being one”.

Anwar has been named solicitor of the year in 2018-19, lawyer of the year 2017 and solicitor of the year in 2016, and has picked up the award over the last decade more times than any other lawyer.

Despite being asked by students and staff to stand again for Glasgow University’s rector, he said he would not do so because of pressure of work – Ponsati’s case and the fallout from the death of Sheku Bayoh in police custody among them.

He admitted to being furious when he told The National last night: “These comments are a reflection of alt-right, fascist and racist dogmatism which should come as no surprise given the autocratic, barbaric response to Catalonia’s legitimate and peaceful fight for independence.

“Claims that I am using the independence struggle as a Trojan horse to spread Islam would be laughable were they not rooted in such dangerous, pernicious racism and bigotry.

“It is abhorrent that such words flow not from the pages of some far-right commentator but from those masquerading as diplomats.

“The comments designed to stoke fear and hate will have no impact on the outcome of Catalonia’s struggle for freedom or indeed the outcome of Clara Ponsati’s extradition which fortunately lies in the hands of our independent judiciary.

“Dog whistle politics of this ilk are the last resort of those who know they have already all but lost.”

The court documents also reveal that Vecino was told to monitor the activities of the Basque independence party PNV within the UK.

At a pre-appointment briefing in Madrid, Villarino told Vecino: “We don’t trust even one hair.”

In his papers, the diplomat added: “We received little information about this party, but they were very active there too, although not [as active] as the Catalan secessionists.

“Therefore, he only wanted to watch over it and report its activities.”