STV independence debate a comfortable win for Sturgeon

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   By a Newsnet reporter

Thursday night’s television debate on Scottish independence, broadcast on STV, has been described as a win for Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon put the case for independence in a debate which feature a head-to-head confrontation between Ms Sturgeon and Scotland Secretary Michael Moore, who was arguing the case for the Union.

According to observers and commentators, Ms Sturgeon easily won the debate.  STV’s Bernard Ponsonby described the outcome as a “Comfortable points victory for Nicola Sturgeon”.  Analyst Colin Mackay, political editor at Radio Clyde and Radio Forth, agreed that Ms Sturgeon won the debate, although he added that he felt neither politician had but added that neither politician had asked crisp, effective questions.

Meanwhile writing in the Scotsman, journalist Eddie Barnes said that “it was the more proactive Ms Sturgeon who came out on top over the course.”

Ms Sturgeon scored a notable point on the topic of child poverty, addressing Mr Moore directly, she said:

“Westminster policies right now are cutting the living standards of hundreds of thousands of low and middle income Scots and plunging 50,000 more Scottish children into poverty. The Scottish parliament opposes these policies. Eight out of ten of Scotland’s MPs voted against these policies because they hurt our people and they hurt our economy. Why should your welfare cuts be imposed on Scotland against the democratic wishes of the Scottish parliament? Justify that.”

Mr Moore did not answer the question directly, but replied:

“We’re reforming the welfare system but we’re doing it so that we can make work pay. So we can get people away from being on unemployment benefit and into work. We’re actually succeeding in creating hundreds of thousands of jobs here in Scotland and across the UK.”

Ms Sturgeon then produced a campaign leaflet published by the anti-independence campaign which highlighted the UK’s triple A credit rating and claimed that Scotland risked losing the rating if it became independent.  Although the UK has since lost its triple A credit rating, the anti-independence campaign continues to distribute the leaflet.

Ms Sturgeon accused the anti-independence campaign of “baseless scaremongering”, and asked Mr Moore: 

“Will you pledge tonight that there’ll be no more of this on this or any other issue in this campaign?”

Mr Moore denied that the anti-independence campaign indulged in scaremongering, saying: 

“That’s twice tonight you’ve accused me of scaremongering. I’ve been here trying to put the most positive case that will attract people in Scotland to stay part of the UK. I would just highlight that we remain one of the top-rated economies in the world.” 

Although he admitted that Scotland continuing to use sterling was a possibility, saying “nothing has been ruled out”, Mr Moore challenged Ms Sturgeon on the currency issue, asking what the Scottish Government proposed if negotiations on Scotland continuing to use sterling failed and whether there was a “Plan B”.

Ms Sturgeon replied:

“We want to keep the Pound and I’m not going to talk about a Plan B when we’ve got an excellent plan in the form of the fiscal commission working group. I understand that you’ve got a political job to do. You want to create as much fear and uncertainty in this campaign as you can but as we’ve discussed earlier on this evening, it’s not just right for Scotland that we stay in the Pound, it’s right for the UK as well.

“Are you going to tell me seriously that a UK Government, after Scotland has democratically decided to vote for independence, is going to look its own businesses, its own citizens in the eye and say we’re going to force you into a difference currency with one of your biggest trading partners even though your trading partner wants to stay within that currency?

“It’s common sense and you know it and the only reason you won’t admit it is it would take away your ability to spread fear amongst the Scottish people.”

Commenting after the debate, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said:

“Last night’s excellent debate exposed the flaws at the heart of the No campaign’s case. 

“Their arguments came tumbling down under the common-sense questioning of Nicola Sturgeon.

“On welfare, assets, currency he simply had no answers.

“The UK Government has conceded that Scotland is entitled to a share of UK assets for the first time.

“And they have admitted that despite all the bluster on currency it hasn’t ruled out participating in a Sterling zone.

“And crucially they could not explain why people in Scotland should bear the brunt of damaging welfare policies that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish MPs oppose. 

“Michael Moore has exposed the No campaign’s claims as nothing more than empty bluster that aren’t backed up with any evidence at all.”

STV host John Mackay agreed with other commentators that Ms Sturgeon had come out ahead, saying:

“I said she had to come out fighting and she certainly came out fighting.

“Overall, I think she probably emerged as the better performer on the night. I don’t think there was a massive victory for either side. In terms of the arguments, I don’t think we’re a massive degree further forward.”

The debate can be viewed on the STV website, by clicking here.