In the week Better Together were censoring videos from youtube, it’s strange to witness their sudden interest in open dialogue. Their insistence that Alistair Darling takes on the First Minister in a televised debate – mysteriously promoting the backbench MP to leader of the Scottish Parliament’s opposition – is standard political pantomime. However, I welcome this desire for engagement and have a simple proposition in return: I’ll debate you Mr Darling. You just have to say ‘Yes’.
There are eight good reasons for this.
- It’ll be interesting. Mr Darling could prove that he is different from most politicians and is willing to engage with people outside of the media and government. Maybe he’ll win and convince other ordinary people of the benefits of Westminster!
- I’m flexible. Friday was my last class before graduating from university. I’m free to meet you, Mr Darling, wherever and whenever over the next few months. No excuses! I’ll even cook your favourite meal afterwards if that seals the deal.
- The referendum is about the future. Debates shouldn’t just be between old politicians. Both campaigns should involve people from the younger generation as much as possible.
- The debate is about people not just political parties. Only 1% of UK subjects are members of political parties. It’s time to recognise that the biggest campaign and decision in Scottish history must be led by its citizens. It’s not Labour vs SNP. It’s independence or the union.
- It will prove that you care. I was disappointed that you turned down our invitations to debate Mr Jenkins at Glasgow University. So did David Cameron, Michael Moore, Margaret Curran, Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy. Why the Unionist intransigence? Well this is your chance, Mr Darling. Show that you care about Scotland’s future.
- I’m waiting for answers. I first supported independence a year ago because of the failures of Westminster governments and the opportunities to change them with more powers for Scotland. Recently I wrote an article highlighting 13 failures of UK politics. I’ve not received one convincing response to this. Mr Darling has bemoaned the Tory government for stunting the economy and dividing our society. So if you agree that Westminster isn’t working why don’t you support political independence?
- We might win. National Collective is one of the fastest growing campaign groups in Scotland. So far Better Together has kept its distance and, as it is a fear driven campaign, I’d understand if Alistair and others were too afraid to accept this offer. Still, I did promise you a free dinner!
- I’ll be nice. Mr Darling is a politician deserving of respect. A respectful and ambitious debate on independence must focus on the great ideas at stake. What kind of society do we want to live in? On the economy, is small beautiful or bigger better? On democracy, should we pull sovereignty or recognise Scottish autonomy? Do we need a distinct Scottish voice in the world to promote peace, green energy and disarmament or does the UK’s hard military and nuclear power give us influence that others envy? Is social justice still possible at Westminster or do we need to change a decrepit constitutional structure to give power to people? We can break the “sterile antithesis”, as Gordon Brown described it, between the SNP and Labour that blights Scottish politics. I think we can, Mr Darling. All you need to say is ‘Yes’.