Welsh Tory debate on Scottish independence increases pressure on Cameron


  By Owen O’Donnell
Prime Minister David Cameron’s reluctance to engage in a televised debate on Scottish independence with Alex Salmond has once again been ridiculed after it was revealed that the Welsh Conservative party are themselves holding a debate on the issue.
The Welsh Conservatives are to debate the matter at the Senedd, Wales’ National Assembly, this afternoon in a move which has led to further accusations from the SNP that Cameron is hiding from a debate with the First Minister on the issue after repeatedly refusing to accept Alex Salmond’s challenge to argue the case for the Union with him.

Mr Cameron most recently reiterated his refusal to debate Alex Salmond on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show where he said:

“On the issue of the debate, I know why Alex Salmond is pushing this argument – it’s because he’s losing the current argument and he wants to try and change the argument.

“But this is not a debate between me and him.  The debate should be between people in Scotland who want to stay and people in Scotland who want to go.”

Alex Salmond had previously sent a letter to Number 10 having taken exception to the Prime Minister’s New Year message which devoted a significant portion to arguing against independence, pleading with England, Wales and Northern Ireland to send the message to Scotland, “we want you to stay.”

Mr Salmond responded in this letter with: “It seems that you [Cameron] want to dictate the terms of the debate about Scotland’s future without taking the democratic responsibility to defend your views in open debate. That is simply unacceptable.”

Following the revelation that his party is to debate independence in the Welsh Assembly, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing attacked Cameron for his continued evasion.

She said: “How humiliating for David Cameron that even Tories in Wales are happy to debate Scottish independence yet he continues to run scared from one with Alex Salmond.

“The Prime Minister’s position is increasingly incoherent and ridiculous. It is his anti-independence campaign, yet he still refuses point blank to debate the First Minister.”

“They are the principal signatories of the Edinburgh Agreement so it makes sense for them to participate in a televised, head-to-head debate – a democratic position supported by a substantial majority of people north and south of the border.”

Ms Ewing’s comments follow a poll commissioned by the SNP and carried out by Panelbase which revealed a majority of people across the UK and an overwhelming majority of people in Scotland are in favour of Salmond and Cameron going head to head in a televised debate on Scotland’s future.

The poll, carried out in December, found that 63% of people in Scotland were in favour of a Salmond/Cameron debate with 56% of people across the UK also agreeing that a referendum debate should take place.

The poll also took into consideration how people voted in the 2010 UK General Election as well as the 2011 Scottish Parliament Election.

The only group with a majority of people that did not want to see a debate were people who voted for the Scottish Conservatives in 2011, with 35% of Scottish Tory voters in favour and 54% against the idea. However the majority of people who voted Conservative in the Westminster elections a year earlier were in favour with 57% of UK Conservative voters wanting to see a televised debate.

Referring to the survey result, Ms Ewing added: “The polling 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. If it’s good enough for the Welsh Tories, what is wrong with David Cameron?”