Douglas Alexander: Referendum debate ‘vicious’

Douglas Alexander: Attacked the 'vicious' nature of debate on independence. Picture: PA

Douglas Alexander: Attacked the 'vicious' nature of debate on independence. Picture: PA

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SHADOW foreign secretary Douglas Alexander is set to enter the row over the “bitter” nature of the Scottish independence referendum campaign today, saying it is time for “vision, not viciousness” to prevail.

In a speech, the Paisley MP is expected to hit out at attempts to create an “us and them” divide in the campaign.

He will single out the SNP for criticism, over what he describes as its attempts to “delegitimise” Labour and other pro-UK parties by questioning their right to make a political point.

However, the SNP last night said they condemned all attempts to “denigrate” people in the campaign.

The row comes after comedian Susan Calman said she had received a “sh*tstorm of aggression” after she satirised the referendum on the BBC’s News Quiz last week.

Impressionist Rory Bremner backed her yesterday urging leaders to “rein in their shock troops” on Twitter and Facebook.

Giving the Judith Hart Memorial lecture today in Rosebank, South Lanarkshire, Mr Alexander will say all parties in the referendum should “condemn unequivocally statements and actions that poison the well of public debate”.

The danger, he will claim, is that the referendum campaign descends into a “battle for standing”, as one side attempts to knock down their opponents’ case by questioning their very right to be heard.

He will say: “How has Scotland – rightly proud of our openness and tolerance – arrived at a place where a comedian is smeared, bullied and even threatened for speaking out and making light of the pretensions of politicians?

“It seems to me the real debate we need is not who we are, but how we are. Not a divisive and bitter battle for standing, but a respectful offering of differing visions for the future of our nation.

“We need vision, not viciousness, as we make our choice.”

Responding last night, an SNP spokesman said: “We agree with Douglas Alexander – denigration of people has no place in the referendum debate. It doesn’t matter whether they support Yes or No.

“It’s a matter of public record that Nicola Sturgeon has been sent death threats on Twitter, a posting on the No campaign’s Facebook page talked about firing bullets into SNP leaders, appalling remarks about Alex Salmond’s dad were made on a Labour Party website, and the abuse directed at Susan Calman was disgraceful.”

He added: “All of it must stop, because the referendum debate needs to be a positive one with the people about what Scotland can achieve as an independent country.

“With the powers of independence, we can build a fairer society and stronger economy, be a close friend and neighbour to the rest of the UK, and a good citizen of the world.”

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