Tom Peterkin: Rhetorical car crash & Ukip-baiting

SO, to Aberdeen for the second leg of the great Scottish leaders’ debate, where there were a couple of new faces joining the established quartet of Sturgeon, Murphy, Davidson and Rennie.

Political campaigning moves up a gear as Scottish party leaders prepare to go head-to head. Picture: Newsline/BBC Scotland

Having been denied a game during the STV encounter on Tuesday night, Patrick Harvie of the Greens was keen to make an impression.

But for fans of unpleasant rhetorical car crashes, the most keenly anticipated appearance was that of David Coburn, Scotland’s only Ukip elected representative and the undisputed loose cannon of Scottish politics.

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Coburn was straight into action, having a go at what he described as “Ms Sturgeon’s terrifying lack of economics”.

Challenged by an audience member on Nigel Farage’s plan to cut the money coming to Scotland, Coburn acknowledged that Ukip wanted to “wean Scotland off the Barnett Formula”.

Sturgeon was swift to react, saying to applause: “If we spend too much time in getting coherence and consistency in Ukip’s arguments, we will be here for a very long time.”

Broadcast from Europe’s oil capital and with a backdrop of a slump in oil prices, Sturgeon’s plans for full fiscal autonomy were savaged by the pro-Union politicians.

Her rough ride was compounded by a young lady in the audience, who told her that she and the SNP did not speak for everyone in Scotland.

“Scotland does not have an unique political ideology from the rest of the UK. That became apparent when we voted in a Ukip MEP,” the woman said. A smirk grew on Coburn’s face.

Murphy then went on the offensive, saying SNP MPs would vote next year for full fiscal autonomy, a constitutional outcome that would create a massive financial black hole.

Inevitably, Sturgeon’s failure to rule out a second independence referendum during the STV debate also cropped up last night in fiery fashion. She said the SNP’s 2016 manifesto had not been drafted yet, adding that there was a “triple lock” on the prospect of another independence vote.

There would have to be a change in material circumstances, a referendum would have to be in a SNP manifesto and people would have to vote for that manifesto.

It was an answer that saw Murphy tell her she had gone from being one of the leaders of a passionate Yes Scotland campaign to the leader of a “mibbes Ayes, mibbes Naw” campaign.

As the clock ticked down, it was time for everyone to gang up on Coburn – a sport greeted enthusiastically by the audience. Sturgeon condemned the Ukip MEP as “xenophobic” and “narrow-minded” – Coburn recently referred to SNP minister Humza Yousaf as “Abu Hamza”.

“You compared a colleague of mine to a convicted terrorist simply because he is a Muslim. You are a disgrace,” Sturgeon shouted.

Then it was time to go home.