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UK Politics

Pope urges caution over national independence as Scottish referendum approaches

Pope Francis said the case for Yugoslavia was clear but Scotland less so

The Pope has warned of the dangers of secession and said that national independence should be considered carefully as the Scottish referendum approaches.

Pope Francis used the debate in Britain as a comparison when discussing the separatist Catalan movement in Spain.

The Roman Catholic leader told Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia that “all division” was worrying but made a distinction between independence through emancipation and secession.

He said: “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, Catalonia.

"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.”

Politicians on both sides of the Scottish independence debate seized on his comments.

Labour MP Anne McGuire, speaking for the pro-union “Better Together” campaign, said Pope Francis was right to warn about the “impact of division”.

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

A spokesman for the opposing Yes Scotland campaign claimed the Catholic Church, which is Scotland’s second-largest religion accounting for 16 per cent of the population, has always recognised the country’s “national status”.

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "The Pope is clearly anxious that any change is done for good reasons and is concerned about dismembering of nations.

“That the Pope speaks on this shows how serious this referendum is. That in itself should be pause for thought.”

President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and JK Rowling have been among those chipping in to the debate in recent weeks.

Additional reporting by PA