By a Newset reporter
Most people people in the United Kingdom believe that Prime Minister David Cameron should take part in a televised independence debate with First Minister Alex Salmond, according to a new poll.
Conducted by Panelbase on behalf of the SNP, the survey revealed a majority of people in Scotland and across the rest of the UK backed the idea of a televised contest between the two leaders.
The polling was conducted from 13th to 20th December, among a representative sample of 1,012 people in Scotland, and 1,011 people in the rest of the UK.
The survey asked participants – “Do you think that there should be a televised referendum debate between Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond to argue the case for an independent Scotland, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron to argue the case for the UK?”
The result from the rest of the UK showed 56% backed the TV debate with 24% against the idea, and 19% saying they didn’t know.
Among people in the rest of the UK who voted Tory in the 2010 Westminster General Election, 57% want a Salmond/Cameron debate with 34% against. The figures for Labour voters showed 65% in favour of a leaders’ debate with 18% against; and 65% of Lib Dem voters backed a TV debate with 22% against.
The Scottish survey showed even greater support for a Salmond/Cameron debate with nearly two thirds (63%) in favour and 25% against. 11% said they didn’t know.
Among people who voted in the Scottish Parliament constituency vote in 2011 only the Conservative voters were against the idea.
Amongst those who voted Labour in 2011, 57% want a Salmond/Cameron debate with 27% against; 50% of Lib Dem voters want such a debate with 38% against; 79% of SNP voters want a debate with 15% against. Tory voters were against by 54% to 35%.
Welcoming the figures, the Deputy First Minister and SNP Depute Leader Nicola Sturgeon called on David Cameron to show some courage and debate with the First Minister.
“These figures demonstrate that there are decisive majorities in Scotland, and among people in the rest of the UK, for a televised referendum debate between Alex Salmond and David Cameron.
“In Scotland, most Labour, SNP and Lib Dem voters want a debate between the First Minster and Prime Minister; and in the rest of the UK they are joined by a clear majority of David Cameron’s own Tory voters, as well as Labour and Lib Dem supporters.
“Yet while David Cameron is happy to pull the strings of the No campaign from 10 Downing Street, he is scared to debate Alex Salmond face-to-face. As the leading politician seeking a No vote, Mr Cameron has to find his courage in referendum year.”
The survey results will increase pressure on the UK Prime Minister to accept repeated challenges from Mr Salmond to debate Scottish independence. Mr Cameron has resisted the idea of a debate with his SNP counterpart and has instead argued that the debate is for the people of Scotland and that Labour MP Alistair Darling should take his place.
However nationalists have insisted that far from leaving the debate to Scots, the Tory leader and his ministers are already playing an active part in the independence debate, but were hiding from scrutiny.
Pointing to the UK Prime Minister’s decision to employ an army of Whitehall civil servants in order to provide ammunition attacking independence, Nicola Sturgeon added:
“David Cameron’s government has boasted that ‘Whitehall’s full intellectual might’ is engaged in trying to achieve a No vote in the referendum, with the Treasury spearheading a ‘co-ordinated push’ – resulting in 13 reports being produced across UK government departments to support the No campaign.
“It is abundantly clear that the No campaign is Tory-led and Westminster-led – a fact further underlined by the Prime Minister’s New Year message.
“Therefore, as the principal signatories of the Edinburgh Agreement, the natural progression in these circumstances is a televised, head-to-head debate between Mr Cameron and Alex Salmond – a democratic position supported by a substantial majority of people north and south of the border.
“It is not possible, with any degree of consistency or credibility, for the Prime Minister to involve himself and his government so centrally in the referendum process, and then refuse to publicly debate these very issues.
“David Cameron’s government has changed its mind on many matters since coming to office – this New Year is the time for him to change his mind on facing Alex Salmond in a TV debate.”