The Dalai Lama has said Scotland's future needs to be decided by its people, not by politicians.

The spiritual leader said he was in Scotland to meet its people and spread a message of harmony and was not upset to be denied meetings with First Minister Alex Salmond or other members of the Government.

Controversy surrounding his visit erupted earlier this week when opposition parties claimed the Chinese authorities had put pressure on councils and the Scottish Government.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said Mr Salmond was refusing to meet the 76-year-old Buddhist leader, but Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Dalai Lama was in Scotland on a pastoral rather than political visit, and was being properly recognised with a reception hosted by Holyrood's Presiding Officer.

Commenting on the controversy, the Dalai Lama said: "Wherever I go meeting the public ... spreading a message of human values, spreading a message of harmony is the most important thing. I think governments can't do much. Of course if there is an opportunity of meeting [members of the government], then I am happy."

The Dalai Lama said it was common for the Chinese Government to talk to authorities in countries he visited and express its views.

Asked to comment on the debate surrounding Scottish independence, he said it was "very important to look at the wider perspective". He appeared to suggest the issue was a matter for the Scottish people as he criticised immoral censorship of citizens by governments. He said: "My answer, my view, is I think common interest and wider perspective, that is important. Scotland belongs to Scottish people, not these [political] parties."

The Dalai Lama's visit to Scotland comes as part of a nine-day tour of the UK.

He began his Scottish tour by meeting SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, who is convenor of Holyrood's cross-party group on Tibet. Green MSP Alison Johnstone, also a member of the cross-party group, said: "He talked about the need to act responsibly, understanding our actions impact on others.

"He also warned that by pursuing money we cannot measure success. This is abundantly clear in this country, where the rich have got richer yet the number of households in poverty has soared.

"He also spoke of the need for forgiveness, somewhat appropriate given the unseemly spat between the big political parties in Scotland over his courteous visit. Our First Minister is the poorer for not meeting the Dalai Lama but I'm sure he will take the next opportunity to do so."

Mr Salmond yesterday refused to reveal whether the Dalai Lama's visit was discussed at a meeting with the Chinese Consul General two weeks ago.

He also declined to be drawn on whether meeting the Dalai Lama would threaten Chinese investment in Scotland. He said: "The arrangements for his visit were made months ago as a pastoral religious visit."

The Dalai Lama's tour yesterday also included a private viewing of archive material about Tibet at the National Library before he delivered a talk at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh with the theme Beyond Religion: Ethics For A Whole World.

He then visited Dundee, where he gave the Margaret Harris Lecture on religion at the city's Caird Hall. Tickets for the event sold out within a few hours of going on sale earlier this year.

Today he will visit Inverness and give a public talk at Eden Court Theatre.

The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and was awarded the £1.1 million Templeton Prize last month at St Paul's Cathedral in London for his engagement with science and people beyond his religious traditions.

He has lived in exile in Dharamsala in northern India since 1959. He passed the political leadership of exiled Tibetans on to an elected prime minister last year but remains the spiritual leader of the Tibetan community.