The current rumour in the Spanish press is that international observers and visitors – myself included – for the disputed Catalan Referendum on October 1, 2017 were paid to be there with tax-payers’ money.
I need to stress that, in as far as I am aware with the delegation I was with, not one of us was paid by the Catalan Government. I have attached relevant links to some websites below.
I was the assigned Catalan/English interpreter of a group associated with the organisation English Scots for YES, which campaigns for Scottish independence in Scotland. Our group consisted of a former MSP, a former councillor, as well as myself and two other people who have been trained by government agencies (in my case, the City of Edinburgh Council) in electoral neutrality, impartial conduct and vote-counting procedures. I must stress that it is normal procedure in modern elections – in ALL countries – to invite observers and visitors from abroad from different parties and political persuasions to maintain a free, democratic vote. It is not unheard of – in fact it is VERY normal – for international observers and visitors to belong to particular political parties and/or have specific political persuasions.
Whilst all of us were personally sympathetic to the cause for independence in Catalonia, the official position of our organisation was to remain neutral and to support the democratic principle of voting in a referendum – be the final result ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We stuck to very clear guidelines during our stay; we did not wear badges or particular colours. We spoke to both ‘yes’ and ‘no’-voters at polling stations the night before and on the day of October 1. Our message, especially when making public statements at polling stations, is that we were there to defend a democratic vote and that the world was anxiously watching events develop in Catalonia. You can read our official report here.
Our flights and stay through Airbnb in Vilassar de Mar were funded partially by ourselves, and also partially crowdfunded by other members of the organisation as well as other ‘Yes’-organisations in Scotland. We had a set budget, and were as transparent as we could be on the crowdfunding page as to what the money would go to. We paid individually for our own meals and public transport. We were not assisted by DiploCAT, who, as far as we are aware, were funded privately through fundraising and donations separate from tax-payer funds. Our own crowdfunding page has been archived here.
It is extremely concerning, if not actually insulting, that we as 100s of international observers and visitors for the Catalan referendum are currently being accused of having been bought.
This not only implicates grassroots campaigners like ourselves, but also elected members of parliament from across Europe who attended in an official capacity in the role as an observer. I will be setting this statement to ‘public’, and will be sharing it on social media. If you have questions, please contact me.
James K Puchowski