Matter of debate

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Lesley Riddoch says (Perspective, 12 May) that “debates are being cancelled or abandoned because Better Together won’t supply speakers”. If so this is disgraceful. Also unnecessary.

Better Together have always refused to work together with Ukip. However, Ukip has not returned the disfavour and our current leader Arthur “Misty” Thackeray was the organiser of Ukip’s campaign before his elevation. I am certain that he would make every attempt to produce a speaker where a debate is wanted.

I personally regard open public debate of every political issue as a necessary and perhaps sufficient condition for democracy and assume the effective BBC ban on Ukip in the referendum debate means they do too.

In 2012 I had the honour, along with our then leader Mike Scott-Hayward, of debating in Glasgow City Chambers for No. Despite having only a few minutes’ preparation (the other parties had, at the last moment, found prior engagements), we won easily. Partly by the expedient of mentioning a prior Green assertion that “nobody should vote Yes in the expectation of any economic growth in the next ten years” which their partners had not disputed.

The opposition were left complaining about how unfair it was that they had to face us when they had been expecting only the usual suspects.

The exclusion of Ukip from the referendum “debate” has meant that a number of the clearest arguments against have gone unmade – those relating to the EU.

Losing the opt-outs Britain has would mean losing our share of the rebate (nearly £1 billion); losing the opt-outs from the social chapter would cost us 170,000 jobs; signing the Shengen agreement on immigration means border posts at Gretna; new members have to promise to join the euro at some point. The SNP, uniquely among nominally separatist parties worldwide, deny us even a referendum on whether we want this union.

Apart from the harm the Better Together campaign and the gatekeepers of the media have done to the No campaign, the Scottish people have, so far, been denied a genuine two-sided debate on the issue. That can still change.

Neil Craig

Prospective Ukip
Glasgow candidate