I have now given 4 hours of my life to watching the Scotland Tonight referendum debates. And probably twice that moaning about how useless they are.
Mike Moore, Anas Sarwar, Alistair Carmichael and Johann Lamont have all now come up against Nicola Sturgeon. That in itself is unfair. Nicola has had 4 goes and hasn’t faced the same opponent twice. While any newcomer could easily predict her tactics, nobody has been able to put anything they have learned into practice. Probably the most civilised has been the one with Michael Moore, who was too polite to really get stuck into Nicola’s arguments.
Nicola, on the other hand has stuck to the tactic she thinks works. These debates have the sae format. A 30 second opening statement, a first part where the moderator questions them on and, then, the final sections where the opponents get to cross examine each other. I thought blood sports were illegal these days. I’d be interested to see what Nicola’s SATs are like at the end of the session. How could anyone survive for 20 minutes without being seen to draw breath? It’s simple. When it’s her turn to cross examine, she spits out her questions and talks over the answers. And she does exactly the same when she’s being cross-examined and her opponent spends more time hissing out answers than pinning her down on her flawed arguments.
Does nobody ever show her how terrible it looks?
Her opponents have only seen the option of trying to muscle into the conversation meaning that they just end up shouting over each other and nobody can make sense of anything. I like to think I’d play it a lot cooler if I were doing it, but in the heat of the moment, I’d probably be like a rabbit in the headlights.
Lsat night we were on to a downer almost from the beginning. There’s a trope from certain elements (oh, ok, them, the Labour party) of the pro UK camp which runs something like this: I’m a (patriot/socialist/worthy thing) not a nationalist (implied to be abad thing, spat out as if even the physical act of forming the word causes pain). It’s rude and unpleasant and disrespectful and I loathe it. Last night, Johann kicked off with “I want a better world. That’s why I’m a socialist not a nationalist.” You have to ask what she’s doing in the Labour Party, then. Their idea of socialism would make its forefathers weep.
And then Nicola kicked off with her trademark “We get a government we don’t vote for.” It’s not like we don’t actually get a vote. I never voted for a majority nationalist administration in 2011, nor for a 3 year dominance of the independence referendum above all else in Scottish politics, but it’s what I got. For just one fifteenth of my life have I had a UK government where my lot are in, and mostly doing sensible things.
The only point of hope was when Johann started talking about giving power away from Holyrood. Have Labour, who have the same tendency as the SNP to centralise anything that sits still for more than 20 seconds, really learned the benefits of devolving power?They were, after all, gagging to merge the police forces.
The cross-examination was as illuminating as going for a bath in squid ink outside at midnight. It was as shouty and horrible as all the others have been. If the politicians won’t learn, Scotland Tonight will have to. They have to put an end to a format that does nothing but send our blood pressure up a few notches.
So, my suggestion for the next debate. Have it round a family of undecided voters’ kitchen table. The politicians will be forced to behave and there will be people there to keep it real.
Oh, and, Colin Mackay, please don’t refer to people as nippy sweeties. Nobody ever uses that term for men and it’s incredibly patronising.
If you agree with me, and many others on Twitter, that we need a better, more real format with real voters asking questions, tell Scotland Tonight by retweeting or sharing this post in their direction.