Tory Minister criticises SNP MP over role in Catalan vote

SNP MP Joanna Cherry.
SNP MP Joanna Cherry.
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A row has broken out in the House of Commons after a Conservative Minister took aim at SNP politicians for ‘ calling themselves official observers’ during the disputed independence referendum in the Spanish region of Catalonia.

Joanna Cherry, SNP MP for Edinburgh South-West, was among a number of European parliamentarians who were invited by the devolved Catalan government to observe the October 1 vote, which was marred by violent scenes after a police crackdown.

The 33-strong delegation, which was made up of politicians from Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein and the Lib Dems, was criticised by Spanish diplomats for ‘interfering’ after the secession referendum.

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Ms Cherry, who is a member of the All-Party Group on Catalonia, was accompanied by her SNP colleague Douglas Chapman, and raised concerns about the Spanish Government’s approach during Foreign Office Questions at Westminster today.

Mr Chapman told Channel 4 in advance of the referendum that he was there ‘to oversee the vote’.

Ms Cherry asked: “As Amnesty International pointed out, the disproportionate use of force by the Spanish police is contrary to International Law - what representations has he made to his Spanish counterpart about the treatment of civilians?”

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Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan hit back, saying: “It is the duty of everyone in this house to uphold the rule of law, so I regret the SNP choosing to call themselves official observers at what was an illegal referendum.”

An angry Ms Cherry later raised a point of order and demanded an apology after noting that the SNP did not send official observers to the referendum, but that the delegation was there as international parliamentary observers.

She also pointed out that Conservative MPs accepted an invitation to monitor a 2002 referendum on the status of Gibraltar, which was not legally recognised by the UK Government before it was held, but which has since been accepted as the settled will of the territory to remain British.