CRIMINAL convictions against nine Catalan independence leaders have been condemned at Holyrood as an SNP MSP joined calls for them to be released.

Ruth Maguire, who represents Cunninghame South, raised Amnesty International’s call for the immediate release of civic leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, along with seven politicians who were jailed for a total of 100 years for sedition.

“Amnesty argue that an overly broad interpretation of the crime of sedition has resulted in criminalising legitimate acts of protest, violating the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” she said.

“I agree with them. Organising peaceful meetings to support the Independence of Catalonia is not a crime and political prisoners should be released immediately.”

READ MORE: Trial of Catalan leaders deemed huge violation of human rights

Maguire’s intervention came as the digital newspaper Vozpópuli published the latest extracts from diplomatic emails lodged with a Spanish court, which indicated Spanish unease at the suggestion Nicola Sturgeon was exploring setting up a Scottish consular “association” in Edinburgh.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon's devotion to independence is seen as a threat to Spain by someNicola Sturgeon's devotion to independence is seen as a threat to Spain by some

The documents are being used by lawyers for sacked Spanish consul-general to Edinburgh, Miguel Ángel Vecino, in his claims of unfair dismissal, after he told the First Minister in a letter that Spain would have no objection should an independent Scotland want to join the EU.

In an email to Camilo Villarino, chief of staff for Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, Vecino revealed that the Scottish Government wanted to create a consular body in Edinburgh to bring together diplomatic representatives based in Scotland.

However, Villarino cautioned home to “go with lead feet” and said the Spanish government had “under surveillance” some foreign consuls in Barcelona who were said to have sympathies with the cause of Catalan independence.

He said Sturgeon intended to make a move similar to that made by Catalan President Quim Torra in Barcelona: “The constitution of a similar consular association in Barcelona has been one of the key instruments that the Generalitat [Catalan Government] has used to try to win the [independence] race and [bring] honorary consuls in Catalonia to their cause.”

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He said Spain had had to call for the dismissal of half a dozen consuls accredited in Barcelona, all of whom had been “honorary”, but added that some career diplomats were “also under surveillance”.

Borell’s apparent fear was that if a foreign consul in Barcelona showed sympathy for Catalan independence, they would be seen to be doing it with the express support of their country, could trigger diplomatic crises with Spain.

In an email to his ministry, Vecino said the Scottish Government raised the “unification” of accredited consuls in Scotland, including Spanish consular bodies in Leith and Glasgow. He wrote: “Consulted colleagues who have been here for many years, all without exception told me that they had never seen so much consular activity, so sudden and so many preparations in the Government (of Sturgeon) to deal with the consuls.”

The next day, an official from the Spanish embassy in London, contacted the UK Foreign Office, which was apparently unaware of the move.

A senior Scottish Government civil servant was then said to have spoken to Vecino, to say they had been told by the Foreign Office that “the Spanish embassy had contacted them because it was restless about this association and wanted to know if the Foreign Office was going to ban it”.

London was “very much interested” in knowing if Sturgeon’s government was formally behind the move. Vecino added: “It seems that, at least formally, this is not the case; although everything suggests that it has the Scottish Government’s resources.”