A SCOTS MP has welcomed the announcement from Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez that Catalonia’s nine political prisoners – jailed for their part in the 2017 independence referendum – are to be pardoned.

However, Douglas Chapman, the SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, questioned the motives of the Spanish government, and said the decision had only come after political pressure internationally and from within Catalonia.

Twelve politicians and activists were convicted of sedition and other crimes and nine were jailed for between nine and 13 years, including former vice president Oriol Junqueras, and cultural leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez.

The prime minister made the announcement in Barcelona’s Opera House yesterday – as noisy protesters gathered outside waving Catalan flags – when he told the audience his cabinet would approve the pardons.

READ MORE: Catalonia's 'political prisoners' will be pardoned

Sanchez said: “With this action, we materially get nine people out of prison, but we symbolically add millions and millions of people to coexistence.

“We are going to do it for the sake of agreement, we are going to do it wholeheartedly.”

Chapman, who is also vice-chair of Westminster’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Catalonia, told The National: “Questions need to be asked about whether this was the right, fair and just course of action by the Spanish government from the start.

“Political pressure from within Catalonia and across the wider international spectrum of opinion has brought about this decision and it will be a great day for those politicians who have been in jail for far too long and for their families when they are finally released.

“No-one should stand in the way of democracy and the wishes of the people, nor should violence, intimidation or wrongful incarceration play a part in the democratic process.

“I hope the people of Catalonia do have their say on their own future and the freeing of their political leaders should signal a new kind of relationship based on respect for democracy.”

Catalan president Pere Aragones, who did not attend the Opera House, said the pardons were not enough.

“The unjust sentencing is now corrected but it is a partial, incomplete solution,” he told reporters at another event.

He said the real way out of the issue would be an amnesty for everyone involved in judicial procedures stemming from the indyref, including those in exile – such as former president Carles Puigdemont and former minister Clara Ponsati.

A debate was under way yesterday in the Council of Europe on a report calling for the prisoners’ release and ending the persecution of those in exile.

However, two of Spain’s Unionist parties tabled a series of amendments omitting any reference to extending the pardons.