CATALAN media yesterday claimed that the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) had bowed to diplomatic pressure from Spain to include a unionist speaker in a discussion last night about the future of the independence movement there.

St Andrews academic and exiled former Catalan education minister Professor Clara Ponsati was on the panel, along with her lawyer Aamer Anwar, Catalan Foreign Minister Alfred Bosch and Professor of Contemporary Spanish Studies Paul Preston, director of the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies at LSE.

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The programme for the event read: “More than a year after the celebration of the self-determination referendum, the Catalan independentist movement is at a crossroads.

“Nine political leaders are in jail and face charges of sedition and rebellion, while seven others face similar charges in other countries.

“The testimony of the ex-minister of education, Clara Ponsati, will provide the audience with a unique perspective of these circumstances.”

However, a late addition to the line-up was announced yesterday – Jose Ignacio Torreblanca, head of the Madrid office of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Catalan online publication VilaWeb described him as columnist for Spanish newspaper El Mundo, a “collaborator” of RNE (Spanish National Radio) and professor of the UNED (National University of Distance Education). It said his inclusion only came after diplomatic intervention: “Spanish diplomatic pressures at the last minute, the complaint of [academic and politician] Luis Garicano and more Spanish teachers threatened the event. In the end it will be done, but … the prestigious English institution has also ended up accepting the presence of a unionist. It will be Jose Ignacio Torreblanca.”

LSE would not say if any diplomatic intervention had been behind Torreblanca’s inclusion. A spokesperson said: “Another speaker was included in tonight’s event to reinforce the academic debate about the issues being discussed.”