ALEX Salmond has dismissed Nicola Sturgeon’s attempt to secure a second independence vote via the UK Supreme Court as “foolish” and claimed no referendum is ever “unlawful”.

The former First Minister and SNP leader made the comments at a conference in Catalonia at the weekend.

Although he has previously said he disagrees with Ms Sturgeon’s bid to have the Court rule on Indyref2, he has not previously been so scathing.

In June, Ms Sturgeon asked her top law officer, the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC, to refer the question of whether Holyrood can hold Indyref2 under its existing powers to the Court.

Boris Johnson had repeatedly refused to lend Holyrood extra powers to stage a vote, and both his possible replacements as Prime Ministyer have also ruled out Indyref2.

The issue of whether a vote would be possible without Westminster’s consent has long been an issue of dispute among legal scholars.

The reference followed Ms Bain refusing to approve a unilateral Referendum Bill going to Holyrood in case it exceeded the parliament’s powers.  

Ms Sturgeon has said that if the Supreme Court rules the Bill would be within Holyrood’s legislative competence, she will hold a vote in October next year.

However if, as most observers expect, the Court says such a Bill would be ultra vires and therefore “not law” as it relates to the reserved matter of the Union, Ms Sturgeon has said she will fight the general election as a de facto referendum on independence instead.

After giving a speech at the 54th International Conference of the Universitat Catalana d’Estiu, Mr Salmond took part in a Q&A session and was asked about the issue.

He said: “My successor Nicola Sturgeon has announced there will be another referendum on October 19 next year. I’ve got it circled in my diary, and I’m very hopeful it will take place, but I anticipate one or two obstacles on the way to getting there.”

He said it would be possible to make the UK Government back down and agree to a referendum, as it was in a much weaker position than it was a decade ago.

He recommended “parliamentary intervention, popular agitation and diplomatic pressure” as the UK was in a huge economic.crisis” and relatively friendless in Europe after Brexit..

He went on: “Nicola Sturgeon, if the request [for an agreed vote], is refused is then going to go to the UK Supreme Court. I don’t agree with it.

“One of the good things about studying other international examples is you learn lessons, from the Spanish Constitutional Court or the Canadian Supreme Court.

“To go to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, which is stationed two minutes’ walk from the Palace of Westminster, and say, ‘Can you help us?’ is a big ask.

“So I think it’s foolish to go to the UK Supreme Court. I think the answer to asserting Scottish democracy lies in the political process in Scotland.”

Asked about the status and legality of a referendum, Mr Salmond went on: “In my estimation a referendum can never be unlawful. 

“I mean, if you think about it, how can a consultation with the people, how can a wish to let the people speak, ever be considered unlawful?

“I mean, to say it’s unlawful is an abuse of the Spanish language, the Catalan language, the English language or any language. It’s a nonsense.

“Referendums are either agreed or they’re not agreed. 

“Now obviously it’s better to have a situation where a referendum is agreed because that means, once it’s voted on, it’s followed through. But the phrase unlawful is a phrase obviously used to discredit attempts by national movements to consult with the people.

“In the 1770s the United Kingdom regarded the American colonists as unawlful, not just unlawful but as traitors because they were rebelling against King George III.

“After the acceptance of defeat then they became lawful because the Americans had won.

“Referendums, in my view, should never be described as unlawful.

“Consulting the people, asserting democracy, is not unlawful.”

Apparently referring to Spain’s violent response to the wildcat Catalan referendum of 2017, Mr Salmond added: “Hitting people over the head or dragging them down stairs or preventing them voting, that’s unlawful, and if anybody did that without a police uniform on, they would be arrested, and so they should be. 

“But asking the people to express their wishes should never be considered unlawful.”

On Sunday, one of Mr Salmond’s former Scottish Government aides revealed he had been warned in the SNP’s first term, 2007-11, that a referendum would be unlawful without Westminster’s consent, and that was why he never brought forward a Bill to have one.

Despite his doubts about Ms Sturgeon’s plans, he also told his audience he thought independence was much closer than it had been for most of his lifetime.