SPAIN has fired its most senior diplomat in Edinburgh after he said the country would not veto an independent Scotland joining the EU.

Madrid newspapers this weekend reported that Consul-General Miguel Ángel Vecino Quintana, 65, would be formally told of his dismissal on Monday.

Officials at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Mr Vecino had exceeded his powers by making political representations on behalf of his government.

Sources cited in the Madrid press, however, made clear the sacking - which they described as a "diplomatic earthquake" - was for the very fact Mr Vecino made the statement, rather than what he said. It was a matter, they said, of "form not substance", according to La Vanguardia, the Barcelona daily. "It is not for a consul-general to make declarations of a political nature," the paper cited one insider as saying.

READ MORE: Spanish government will not block independent Scotland's EU membership

Successive Spanish governments have repeatedly said that they would not block the the EU membership of an independent Scotland. Equally, some the the country's more hardline unionists have routinely disagreed with this position.

Mr Vecino's sacking is likely to restart speculation on whether Spain, which has blocked an independence referendum in Catalonia and arrested what it calls "separatist" leaders, would be be diplomatically hostile to any new sovereign Scottish state.

The row began last week when The Herald's sister paper, The National, printed a letter from Mr Vecino, it had obtained under freedom of information.

It is understood a letter was addressed to a non-editorial executive at The Herald as opposed to the usual channels for publication - but copied to the Scottish Government.

This paper had in April ran a short story on comments made by Spanish MEP Esteban González Pons - stressing these were different to the position of the Socialist government.

We reported that Mr González , of the centre-right Partido Popular (PP) said his party 'would veto an independent Scotland from directly entering EU before Brexit'.

His comments, made while campaigning, prompted Mr Vecino to write to a Herald "director" - there is no such post in a Scottish newspaper.

He wrote: “I have read today 16 April in your newspaper, an article concerning a statement made by Mr Esteban González Pons affirming that his party will block the entry of an independent Scotland into the European Union.

“In this regard, I would like to make the following points: The Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Josep Borrell has recently declared that Spain will not block Scotland’s entry into the European Union if independence is legally achieved and such has always been the intention of the Spanish Government. The Spanish Government has not and never will intervene in the internal affairs of the United Kingdom or any other state and expects the same reciprocal attitude."

READ MORE: Spanish unionist again raises prospect of vetoing Scotland's membership of the EU

The liberal Spanish online paper El Confidencial this weekend quoted Mr Vecino as insisting that the letter was "private" and that it reflected the views of his ultimate superior, Mr Borrell

Mr Borrell, a Catalan socialist and unionist, has previously said he believes the United Kingdom is more likely than Spain to break up.

Meanwhile, El Confidencial's reporting suggests other factors may also have contributed to the diplomat's dismissal. The paper cited staff concerns about Mr Vecino, including claims he was a "trouble-maker", a "despot" and "unbearable". Some consulate workers had written to Madrid to complain. Spain's honorary consul in Aberdeen added his voice to concerns, saying "the immense majority of staff are suffering his [Vecino's] temperamental harshness," said El Confidencial.

Other sources suggest a "top-to-bottom" clean sweep of the diplomatic service is underway.

Mr Vecino, meanwhile, was reported to reject the accusations, saying he had inherited the consulate in a "lamentable" state. "I won't tolerate that people just do whatever they feel like," he said.