Debate helps sway voters

An independence debate held last week has been hailed a success after it help make up the minds of many undecided voters.

The attendance, and the quality of the debate between four Borders politicians at the debate, organised by the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, was also warmly welcomed by Jack Clark, convenor of the chamber.

An audience member making his point to the panel

An audience member making his point to the panel

After the debate, at the Scottish Borders Campus in Galashiels, Mr Clark told The Southern: “It is only in recent months that the tempo and bar has been raised in terms of the debate and discussions regarding what is going to happen on September 18 this year.

“We thought it was only right that we should have an open debate here in Galashiels, open to members of the Borders chamber and also to non-members too.

“It was very pleasing that in the region of 200 people were here tonight to hear our four speakers under the excellent chairmanship of Cameron Buttle.”

Before the start of the debate a show of hands was called to find out how many of the audience were undecided. This was repeated at the end, which revealed at least a 50 per cent reduction in the number of undecided voters.

The undecided put their hands up.

The undecided put their hands up.

Paul Wheelhouse MSP and Christine Grahame MSP spoke for independence, while Michael Moore MP and David Mundell MP advocated the benefits of the union.

During his 15 minute speech, Mr Wheelhouse spoke about the successes of the Scottish Parliament to date and also accused the Better Together campaign of “scaremongering” on various matters, including border controls.

Mr Wheelhouse said in an independent Scotland there would be points-based immigration policy, similar to that in Australia, and that EU membership under independence would provide greater access to Common Agricultural Policy funding and European development cash.

He added that access to trans-European transport funds would be of “great benefit to the Borders” and said that oil reserves of around £1.5trillion remained in the North Sea.

Paul Wheelhouse MSP

Paul Wheelhouse MSP

Mr Wheelhouse concluded by suggesting people also consider what the arguments would be for joining the rest of the UK if Scotland was currently independent, but warned that if Scotland voted for independence it would not become a “land of milk and honey overnight”.

Michael Moore told the audience that the debate was not about if Scotland could become independent, but rather if it was better off being independent.

He said Scotland could continue to “enjoy the best of both worlds” if it stayed in the union, with many decisions taken close to home in the Scottish Parliament and with the added strength of being part of the UK.

He added that as part of the ‘UK family’ Scotland had greater security and a greater place in the world and more “clout”.

Michael Moore takes the stand

Michael Moore takes the stand

On oil, Mr Moore said: “Tax receipts over the last few years have pretty much collapsed.”

He concluded by saying that as part of the UK, Scotland had a “place at the top table” with the EU, the G8 and Nato.

He added: “After this vote there will be change. If it is a vote for independence it will be of an unprecedented scale, but if we vote to stay part of the UK I believe things will change too.

“I believe more powers are an unstoppable reality of Scottish politics. We can take all the powers we want as Scotland, and as part of the UK.”

A lively question and answer session covered a wide range of topics before David Mundell and Christine Grahame had five minutes each to sum up.

Mr Mundell said: “We have got a great future together, and Scotland can continue to prosper with a strong Scottish Parliament.”

From left to right, Christine Grahame MSP, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Cameron Buttle, debate chairman, David Mundell MP, Michael Moore MP

From left to right, Christine Grahame MSP, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Cameron Buttle, debate chairman, David Mundell MP, Michael Moore MP

Christine Grahame said the Scottish Parliament was “hampered” and that Scots did not have the ‘best of both worlds’.

Referring to the ‘bedroom tax’ and the Scottish Government’s response, Ms Grahame added: “We try to fire fight policies that come from Westminster that are not in the interests of Scottish people and that take money from budgets that you quite rightly want spent on other projects.”

She said independence would ensure that Scotland would get a government it voted for.