If we should be fortunate enough to exceed the target in our imminent fundraiser, readers, we promise we’ll use any extra money to try to make this happen.
For some time now, we’ve been documenting a couple of intriguing aspects of the No campaign. One is its apparent shortage of grassroots activists, leaving “Better Together” to instead rely on the Scottish and UK media to get its message out. The other is a reluctance to engage in public debate with adults.
Where BT has deigned to participate in public hustings at all, the bulk of the events have been those at schools and colleges. Invited to debate independence in front of crowds of grown-ups, the No camp is oddly reticent, as we discovered ourselves last year when we offered to pay for and set up a head-to-head, with a neutral and mutually-approved chair, between respective campaign figureheads Dennis Canavan and Alistair Darling, getting only abuse in response.
Of course, a bunch of evil cybernats such as ourselves might expect to be rebuffed. But what if the cuddly, respectable official Yes Scotland organisation had a go?
If we were you, we’d skip ahead to about 18 minutes in this video of a debate hosted by the Cupar Business Network at the start of the month. John Swinney’s oratorial skills aren’t his strongest suit, and Murdo Fraser is reading from the same “Better Together” script you’ve heard a hundred times before.
But the following hour shows Swinney where he IS at his very best. A superb debater with facts at his fingertips and a razor-sharp focus, he takes Fraser apart methodically and comprehensively, with impeccable politeness and clarity.
We’ve been tweeting a few of the most noteworthy bits throughout the day, but if you’ll forgive us for asking you to sit through two hour-long bits of media in succession, we think you’ll find this one worth it.
If you’re one of our non-Luddite readers and possess a Twitter account, you’ll probably have noticed a flurry of comment a couple of weeks back about a debate at Abertay University in Dundee (the UK’s centre of educational excellence for the videogames industry, among other things), in which the SNP’s Stewart Hosie – debating Labour’s Lord Robertson – turned round a large pre-debate majority of 59% to 21% for the Union and converted it into a clear majority of 51-38 for Yes. (A stunning 25% swing.)
Splendidly, the whole thing is now available on video. Enjoy and learn.
Below is the text of a letter sent by Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, to the UK Prime Minister David Cameron today, setting out six reasons why the PM should take part in a live debate with the FM on the subject of Scottish independence.
As we’ve already noted today, those who don’t currently support independence can be split into two groups: those who can be persuaded to support it, and those who can’t.
For the purposes of winning the referendum it’s important to be able to tell the difference between the two, so as to avoid wasting time trying to convert the non-convertible, and spend our time instead on those who can be persuaded to vote Yes.
Obviously we tried ringing “Better Together” ourselves again this morning, just before 10am, but once again Blair McDougall was unavailable, and the person we spoke to couldn’t tell us when would be a good time to catch him as he’d be “in and out” of the office throughout the day.
We took that to mean that he was currently out, so we called him on his mobile.
(We’ve blanked the bit where he gives out another “Better Together” mobile number, as we don’t know if that one was publicly accessible like Mr McDougall’s was.)
We’ve sent an email to the specified address. We’ll try a text after that.
As alert readers will be aware, we’re having an inexplicably hard time getting hold of “Better Together” campaign chief Blair McDougall at the moment. Although the No camp constantly claims to want “debate” and we’ve already got the Yes side’s agreement, for some reason Mr McDougall still hasn’t accepted our invitation to have BT’s official spokesman, Alistair Darling, go up against his Yes counterpart Dennis Canavan in a public head-to-head at a mutually convenient time and location.
Despite our trying to get in touch with Mr McDougall every day for the last week, he always seems to be out or “in meetings”, even if we call 60 seconds after he’s just posted a tweet. And when we leave messages with BT staff, he never gets back to us.
Obviously we’re pretty busy and can’t just sit here redialling every two minutes, so if any of you get a spare moment to call the BT office today, can you ask them – very politely, please – if he’s in, and if so whether he’s got an answer for us yet? Ta.
That number again: 0141 225 6288.
We’re now in the sixth day of our attempt to arrange a public debate between the respective chairmen of the Yes and No campaigns, Dennis Canavan and Alistair Darling. Yes Scotland director Blair Jenkins accepted on behalf of Mr Canavan some days ago, but despite his “Better Together” counterpart Blair McDougall initially agreeing (on the misunderstanding that we were inviting him rather than Mr Darling), he’s yet to respond to several further enquiries.
We rang the BT offices in Glasgow just after two o’clock this afternoon, but Mr McDougall was “in meetings” (though he was posting tweets two minutes beforehand) and the person we spoke to couldn’t tell us when we might be able to get hold of him. We left a message asking him to get in touch when he had a minute. We’ll let you know when we hear anything.