Alex Salmond has been praised for his handling of the upcoming independence vote by the foremost champion of Catalan nationalism.

Former Catalan president Jordi Pujol said that the First Minister had been "manoeuvring well".

Mr Pujol, who led Catalonia for 23 years, also appeared to offer hope to nationalist ambitions, saying that no successful popular political movement had ever won the backing of 100% of the population.

His comments come as the Scottish and UK Coalition governments inch closer to a deal on the independence referendum and ahead of a major pro- separation rally tomorrow in Barcelona.

Polls suggest support for Catalan independence is at its highest level in years as the region suffers as part of the economic crisis hitting the eurozone.

During a visit to London, Mr Pujol refused to be pressed on whether he thought that now was the time for Scotland to become independent, insisting he did not know enough about the situation.

But he appeared to suggest that Scotland would eventually break away from the UK, saying that no movement had ever started with the popular backing of the entire population. He added: "National movements are never movements of all the people, even the movement for independence in the United States."

And he pointed out that at the end of the War of Independence in the US, many people who had opposed the idea moved to Canada.

In Catalonia and in Scotland, he said: "It is difficult to know if and when, for instance, the idea of independence will be able to be overcome."

He added that it was not "only a question of the feeling of the population, but also (of the) skills of the leaders".

Although he said he did not know Mr Salmond personally, he added: "My knowledge about what Alex Salmond is doing is not enough for an opinion, but Scotland has been working well during these last few years."