THE first time I remember noticing a change in the Scottish mood towards the EU on social media was during the crisis in Greece.

There was a sense of anger among people who felt the mighty EU was bullying a small nation and leaving it to rot in austerity with utter disregard for people’s lives, rights and livelihoods. There was also a fear among supporters of Scottish independence that Europe had the power to hold smaller countries to ransom, effectively compromising the right to self-determination.

Now, Catalonia has become the latest issue to shine the spotlight of scepticism on the EU, and what relationship Scotland should have with Europe.

Social media has been filled with images and videos from the region, showing police brutality on the day of Catalonia’s independence vote, and during the rallies and demonstrations since. Catalans are using the freedom afforded to them by social media to highlight a deeply worrying stance from the Spanish government in the supposedly civilised West.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is currently in Brussels as Spain prepares to issue a European arrest warrant for him, and a number of former ministers from the deposed Catalan government are in jail for daring to allow citizens a say in their own future.

And the EU’s response? Nothing to do with us, guv, national sovereignty and all that jazz. At a time when the EU could use its position and influence to encourage calm and negotiations from Madrid, it doesn’t want to be seen to be interfering. The Catalan people can go to hell, effectively.

This is where it all becomes a rather big elephant in the room in Scotland, and problematic for the SNP. Yes, 62 per cent of people in Scotland voted to remain in the EU, but they were hardly skipping down to the polling stations, and it’s thought that around a third of SNP voters voted in favour of Brexit.

At the recent SNP conference in Glasgow, a consistent theme when speaking to delegates was hesitation around Europe. It was clear that not all are convinced that an Emmanuel Macron-style pro-EU sentiment is where Scotland should be. The EU is a monolithic, bureaucratic beast filled with so much of what people around the world are rejecting right now: politics that benefits suits and not people.

The SNP’s position is that Scotland should seek full EU membership on becoming an independent country. However, it would be smarter for the wider independence movement to have a far more open mind. Full membership is not the only option on the table; Scotland could instead opt for a Norway-style relationship with Europe via the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), for example, which some indy supporters feel may be a better option. But the wider point should be about choice: as an independent nation, citizens must be offered the right to choose what relationship Scotland has with Europe.

The strength of the affinity Scottish nationalists feel with Catalonia should not be underestimated. If the EU fails to show up on this crisis and turns a blind eye to the Spanish government’s actions, we could well see that 62 per cent Remain support in Scotland drop, and it will likely be among the SNP’s own base.

Nothing short of strong support for Catalonia from the SNP leadership and the wider independence movement will be good enough. In the last four years, I haven’t been to a pro-indy demonstration or event yet that didn’t have a number of Catalan flags on display.

Brexit has changed the game in Scotland. The EU may now look more favourably upon our independence if it comes with a strong pro-European current. However, many nationalists are also well aware that if the UK was not leaving the EU, Europe’s leaders may similarly have behaved in an unwelcoming way towards Scotland’s right to self-determination as they now are with Catalonia’s.

Nicola Sturgeon’s pro-European position could come at a high cost if indy supporters feel it is to the detriment of like-minded struggles elsewhere, and indeed to Scottish independence itself. If indy and EU membership become one and the same thing, does independence lose its very identity and purpose?

The SNP must think deeply about where its priorities should lie when it comes to Europe, and consider whether it is interpreting the mood in Scotland correctly. The pro-indy polls didn’t move as much as the SNP expected after the Brexit vote, and the crisis in Catalonia has somewhat darkened the pro-European mood in Scotland.

The SNP cannot afford to appear meek towards the EU. It must be seen as a leader in standing up for Catalan rights, and for the very concept of self-determination.