NICOLA STURGEON should consider holding a “Catalan-style” referendum on Scottish independence if Brexit falls apart and damages Scotland, Elisenda Paluzie, the President of the Catalan National Assembly, has suggested.

In an exclusive interview with The Herald, the academic and political activist, on a visit to Westminster to address sympathetic MPs, said she had been told how Alex Salmond, the former First Minister, would have unilaterally held a vote on Scotland’s future if David Cameron had refused to facilitate one in 2014.

The Professor of Politics at Barcelona University noted how Theresa May had made clear the UK Government would not enable an independence referendum in this parliament ie before 2022 and so explained if the Brexit was “really negative for Scotland and the people are convinced of the necessity of getting rid of this new situation,” then the SNP Government organising its own poll would be an “opportunity and would make a lot of sense”.

Asked if the option of a Catalan-style independence poll should, therefore, be considered by the First Minister in such circumstances, Prof Paluzie replied: “Yes,” stressing: “If the option of a Catalan-style referendum is there, I’m quite sure the British Government won’t send the police to block the polling stations.”

On her own nation’s political future, the Assembly President did not express much hope of Catalonia achieving independence any time soon.

She explained how she was “not positive or expectant” that the new minority Socialist government would help the Catalan independence cause given it was supported by Unionist forces.

Prof Paluzie referred to the appointment of Catalan Unionist Josep Borrell as the new Foreign Minister, who, she noted recently said: “’Catalan society needs to be disinfected.’”

And she said, while the current “technical government” in Madrid might last only a year, it was possible the pro-Unionist Conservative People’s Party could revive following the resignation of Mariano Rajoy and take power again.

When it was suggested the prospects for independence were, therefore, not bright, the academic replied: “No, none of this is good in the sense that getting a deep and profound political dialogue is out of the question. The consequence of all this is what we have to do is to get our majority stronger and in the end make things happen.”

Nonetheless, when asked if she believed she would see Catalan independence in her lifetime, Prof Paluzie declared without hesitation: “Yes. I do.”

But when asked the same question about Scotland, there was less certainty. She laughed, paused and replied: “Well, maybe.”

Prof Paluzie also touched on the case of her colleague Clara Ponsati, the former Catalan Government's Education Minister, who has been teaching at St Andrews University, and who is now facing extradition back to Spain on charges of rebellion and misappropriation of public funds following the independence poll last October when 92 per cent of Catalans voted for independence albeit on a turn-out of just 43 per cent.

The 61-year-old academic, who is facing more than 30 years in prison if found guilty, will today appear at a fringe event at the SNP conference in Aberdeen.

Spain's constitutional court ruled the Catalan referendum to be illegal but Prof Paluzie insisted the ruling itself was “unconstitutional”.

She added: “Violence and ‘rebellion’ in the penal code requires the use of violence; the only violence[in the referendum] was by the police. My hope is the judge in Scotland will see the facts and stop the extradition.”