Debate of the year
In terms of equality of status, the case for a live television debate on independence between First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron is an unanswerable one (your report, 6 January).
The argument that the former should be prepared to lock horns in the studios with the head of Better Together, Alistair Darling, holds no water. Mr Darling’s equivalent in Yes Scotland is Dennis Canavan and he should be prepared to do battle with him.
We frequently hear from these organisations’ chief executives – Blair Jenkins and Blair McDougall – but these encounters already have a stale, predictable quality, which is a real turn off for non-committed voters.
A Cameron/Salmond head-to-head is what is wanted on both sides of the Border. The debate would certainly be worthwhile if the broadcasting networks laid down some clear guidelines for the conduct of the debate.
Some of the set-piece confrontations – notably involving Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the two recent holders of the post of Secretary of State for Scotland – have been marred by petty bickering, constant interruptions, mediocre chairmanship and an almost total lack of respect for the other’s point of view.
We would expect a bit more from two of the highest office holders in the devolved United Kingdom. It would be particularly interesting to hear from both what the situation will be after the referendum.
A Yes vote will simply be mandate for negotiations on independence to begin.
The broadcaster who can get both parties to concede and elaborate on that point is guaranteed some esteem for the future.
But the broadcaster who can actually oversee a debate that lifts television debating to new, high quality standards will deserve the gratitude of us all.
In his New Year’s Day message Prime Minister Cameron told Scots: “We want you to stay”, as the UK enters the year in which Scotland will vote on independence. As the UK Prime Minister it is only natural that he wants this and is fully entitled to make such a plea.
More recently, he commented that he would “work very hard to play my part” in ensuring that Scotland remains part of the UK. Again, it is a fair point to make.
The problem with all this comes with the fact that he is responsible for giving contradictory messages on the matter.
He refuses to publicly debate with the Scottish First Minister, saying this is a matter for the Scots, and yet at every opportunity contradicts this argument by entering the debate, as he did so with his New Year’s Day message.
Cameron’s position on the independence issue is simply untenable and is becoming more than a little tiresome.
If he is to retain any semblance of credibility he must step up to the plate and publicly debate with the First Minister, or, if he is unwilling to do so, stay out of the matter altogether.
The question of Scotland’s independence is of massive historical importance but Alex Salmond persists in attempting to reduce it to a beauty contest between himself and the Prime Minister, with his persistent, childish “televised debate” challenges.
Alex Salmond is fully aware of the antipathy and/or hatred many Scots have towards the Conservatives and his constant challenges to the Tory leader for a debate are primarily to tap into this very antipathy to bolster his preference in the referendum.
Please, Alex, show a little more dignity and respect to the people of Scotland.