THE decision by a Spanish judge to drop extradition requests targeting Clara Ponsati and five other activists for Catalan independence is a victory for common sense.

Attempts to repatriate the 61-year-old St Andrews University academic to face charges relating to the misuse of public funds and “violent rebellion” were always likely to be a public relations catastrophe for Spain.

As education minister in the now disbanded Catalan Government, Ms Ponsati was responsible for providing polling stations used in an independence referendum the Spanish Government claims was illegal. That means, it says she was indirectly responsible for violence aimed at security forces attempting to close those polling stations.

There were problems with both allegations, even leaving aside the fact Amnesty International says it was the Spanish-backed authorities who were guilty of “unnecessary and disproportionate force”.

The misuse of public funds charge previously only usually applied to corruption or using public funds for personal gain. In addition, former Spanish Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro admitted no public funds were used to fund the referendum. And there was a real possibility the Scottish Courts would reject the extradition request on the grounds that an equivalent offence does not exist in Scotland or that the charges were politically motivated.

The latter claim is supported by the way this decision has come about. The change of heart from the Spanish courts follows a change of Government last month after a vote of no confidence saw Mariano Rajoy ousted as prime minister.

If this leads you to believe there is insufficient separation between the Spanish executive and judiciary branches of government, you would not be mistaken.

Regardless of how it came about, this – and the anticipated dropping of the charges themselves and the European Arrest Warrants against the six Catalans – is the only sensible outcome.

While some would dispute the strength of the mandate, it is certainly arguable that the Catalan Government was legitimately elected, with a mandate to hold an independence referendum. In that context, the actions of the Spanish Government couldn’t help but look brutally anti-democratic. If Ms Ponsati and her pro-independence allies acted illegally then perhaps the law needs to change.

This climb-down is a face-saving measure for Spain, and should be followed by the dropping of charges and warrants so those affected are not exiled. Whether or not there is a demand for Catalan independence,a political solution must be sought, rather than a judicial one.

State backed aggression and the arresting and jailing of dissenters is not, and should never have been the answer.