Why Scottish Question TV row will pique voters' interest

27 June 2014 -


Spat between Better Together and Alex Salmond has shown the first minister at his most manipulative – but will only excite curiosity around the forthcoming event. IF it goes ahead, that is…

Will Edwards

It was planned as a chance for the public to hear a fair and balanced argument on Scottish Independence – but instead a major televised debate on the topic may not even go ahead.

Debates prior to the 2010 General Election were credited with swaying a large number of undecided voters, so unsurprisingly more were set to take place over the Scottish issue. The scheduled date was 16 July, when Scottish first minister Alex Salmond was due to go head to head on STV with former Chancellor and current Better Together chair Alistair Darling – each man putting forward his argument for what kind of future Scotland should choose.

However, Salmond decided that he wanted to change up the format, and ordered his chief of staff Geoff Aberdain to set out his terms in a letter to STV: “Please find enclosed a letter from the first minister to [David Cameron] urging him to accept the debate on 16 July or a suitable alternative date,” said the letter. “We look forward to the prime minister’s response and should he accept then I trust STV will be willing to proceed on that basis.”

The letter went on to say that Salmond was in fact willing to debate with Alistair Darling – or an alternative voice from Better Together – but only on a date later in the year. STV then announced they were looking at moving the date to suit those demands.

Better Together was most displeased with STV’s announcement, with comms director Rob Shorthouse saying: “You were clear that the date in question has been firmly set, and that should we decline the invitation to attend the debate on that date, you would proceed with the programme regardless.”

David Cameron has been accused of being “cowardly” in not coming forward for the televised debate, but Salmond now looks as though he’s willing to derail the whole thing if he doesn’t get his way. Meanwhile, voters are left wondering whether they will actually go ahead at all.

These public exchanges are rarely beneficial to anyone involved. In this case, one side looks like it’s trying to dodge a live debate and the other looks like it’s throwing a tantrum. The only possible winner is whoever does finally televise the debate, as the coverage will only increase awareness from voters – who will now be even more curious to see how bloody the battle turns when these characters finally face each other.

Will Edwards is managing director of media training consultancy Bluewood Training

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