Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Pope's independence comments welcomed

Pope Francis Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pope Francis made the comments in an interview with a Catalonian newspaper

Campaigners on both sides of the Scottish independence referendum debate have welcomed comments from the Pope on independence.

Pope Francis told a Catalonian newspaper that countries breaking away from larger states should be considered on a "case-by-case basis".

He was asked about the "conflict" between Spain and those in Catalonia campaigning for a separate state.

He told La Vanguardia: "All division worries me."

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church went on: "There is independence by emancipation and independence by secession.

"The independences by emancipation, for example, are American, that they were emancipated from the European states.

'Secession of a nation'

"The independences of nations by secession is a dismemberment, sometimes it's very obvious.

"Let's think of the former Yugoslavia. Obviously, there are nations with cultures so different that couldn't even be stuck together with glue.

"The Yugoslavian case is very clear, but I ask myself if it is so clear in other cases - Scotland, Padania, Catalunya.

"There will be cases that will be just and cases that will not be just, but the secession of a nation without an antecedent of mandatory unity, one has to take it with a lot of grains of salt and analyse it case by case."

Labour MP Anne McGuire said Pope Francis was "right to warn about the impact of division".

A spokesman for the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign said: "As His Holiness says, these matters should be looked at on a case-by-case basis."

"Scotland's national status has always been recognised by the Catholic Church," he stated. "Indeed, Scotland has been a filia specialis, or favourite daughter, of the Papacy."

'Biggest political decision'

Commenting on behalf of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, Ms McGuire said: "This is an interesting and welcome intervention from Pope Francis.

"The Pope is right to warn about the impact of division on society and to draw the distinction between independence for emancipation and that for secession.

"We live in a large interdependent world and the best way to secure our future is to work together as part of something bigger."

SNP MSP Dave Thompson, convener of the Christians for Independence group, said: "We welcome the call by Pope Francis for voters in Scotland to analyse the case for independence very closely as this is the biggest political decision any of us will make in our lives.

"We are also confident that when most people, including Christians, do study the case for a 'Yes' vote, they'll conclude that independence is the surest route to a more socially-just Scotland."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie described the Pope's comments as "thoughtful".

"Drawing a distinction between different kinds of independence will help people here consider the motivation for this change," he added.

"The Pope is clearly anxious that any change is done for good reasons and is concerned about dismembering of nations."

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