CATALONIA’s continuing impasse with Spain’s central government is causing increasing concern to the international community, according to a former SNP MP who was an observer at the October 1 referendum.

And Dr Paul Monaghan said there were also doubts over the legality of the election called by Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, as well as “significant concern” over the incarceration of “political prisoners”.

He told The National: “There is growing cause to question the constitutional legitimacy of the election called by the Spanish government and the imposition of centralised control by the Spanish state. Of significant concern also is the continuing incarceration, without bail, of political prisoners in Spanish jails, and a series of investigations now launched by Spain’s authorities into people such as school teachers, who have attempted to counsel children upset and worried by the violence they saw at the referendum on October 1.

“At least one Spanish judge has now publicly expressed concern over the political control of Spain’s judiciary while the Bar Association of Barcelona has also raised numerous legal concerns in regard to the interventions taken by the Spanish prime minister, who continues to refuse to dialogue with Catalonia’s existing governmental representatives.”

His remarks came fewer than 10 days before the Catalan government is due to reconvene on January 17 – a date set by Rajoy. Deposed president Carles Puigdemont is in exile in Brussels and his vice-president and one of his ministers – also sacked – are in prison in Madrid.

“The Spanish government is refusing to respect the representative roles of those that are already in post and now re-elected,” said Monaghan.

“For example, the Spanish government continues to hold in jail the vice-president of Catalonia under threat of a 30-year prison sentence while the president of Catalonia remains in forced exile in Belgium under threat of immediate arrest by Spanish prosecutors if he returns to Catalonia. Given that legal opinion suggests that the Spanish government had no authority to either call the election, or remove the president and his government from office, the international community must continue to question the interference in Catalonia’s affairs, and why the Spanish government appears to be intent on creating a situation where it is made impossible for the elected representatives of the people of Catalonia to discharge their responsibilities.

“We should also be concerned by the investigations that have been launched against ordinary citizens and must trust Spain to ensure that the concept of ‘collective punishment’ will continue to have no role in Spanish justice.

“January 17 will be significant. If Spain’s authorities do not allow the Catalonian government to establish itself and function in a manner consistent with both the Spanish constitution and Catalonian law, the people will continue to express peaceful dissatisfaction and the political momentum for Catalonian independence will continue to grow.”

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Puigdemont would be willing to return to Catalonia after he is reappointed president. It is thought he would want the investiture to be carried out by computer from Brussels.

This would force Madrid’s hand – the state would have to stop a president from taking office after they have been elected by parliament.

There is nothing in the regulations specifying that the presidential candidate must be in the chamber for the investiture debate.