NICOLA Sturgeon has come under fire for rolling out a “red carpet welcome” for Catalonia’s new president, despite ongoing controversy over his history of “xenophobic” remarks.

Quim Torra, who has a reputation as a hardline nationalist, was sworn in earlier this year after being handpicked by deposed leader Carles Puigdemont as his successor.

But critics have accused him of making a string of anti-Spanish comments, dubbing him a “radical who defends a xenophobic nationalism".

Mr Torra will visit Scotland next week, where he will meet with former Catalan minister Professor Clara Ponsati, who is facing extradition to Spain following her role in the region’s controversial independence referendum last year.

He is later due to join the First Minister at Bute House, her official residence in Edinburgh.

But the Scottish Conservatives have slammed the plans, with chief whip Maurice Golden insisting: “Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP always like to pretend they’re appalled at anyone who would engage in divisive or bigoted language.

“But all that goes out the window when it comes to fellow separatists, as this red carpet welcome proves.”

In an article six years ago, Mr Torra described those who oppose the Catalan language and culture as “beasts in human form” and “carrion-feeders, vipers and hyenas”.

He added: “It is a sick phobia. There is something Freudian in these beasts, a rough patch in their DNA.”

Meanwhile, tweets he later deleted claimed “Spaniards know only how to plunder” and that they had long since removed the word “shame” from the dictionary.

Another said the “fascism of the Spanish who live in Catalonia is infinitely pathetic and repulsive”.

He has since apologised for the comments.

In May, anti-racism group SOS Racisme Catalunya condemned his remarks as “dangerous, irresponsible and unacceptable speech, based on prejudices”.

Mr Torra was elected president amid the continuing fallout from last year’s controversial independence referendum.

His candidacy came after Catalonia's former leader Carles Puigdemont failed in his bid to be re-instated despite being in self-imposed exile, fleeing charges of sedition and rebellion in Spain.

Mr Torra, a lawyer and editor, has faced criticism that he is Mr Puigdemont’s "puppet", as well as controversy over his past comments.

Meanwhile, Professor Ponsati – the ex-Catalan education minister – will face a four-week hearing over her extradition from Scotland later this summer.

Spain has accused the former St Andrews University academic of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds. Her legal team describe the allegations as "politically motivated".

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As part of Europe, Scotland has a close relationship with the people of Spain and Catalonia.

“The First Minister regularly meets and hosts leaders visiting Scotland and looks forward to the meeting with the President of Catalonia in Edinburgh to discuss issues on how our two countries can continue to work together.”