This Week in Scotland
The Scottish Parliament is now into the Easter recess, allowing the party leaders to hit the campaign trail, the centrepiece of which has been two televised leaders debates.
There were two TV debates held in Scotland this week. The first, on STV was conducted with Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Jim Murphy (Labour), Ruth Davidson (Conservatives) & Willie Rennie (Lib Dems). The second was conducted on BBC Scotland and included the above leaders along with Patrick Harvie (Greens) and David Corburn (UKIP).
Nicola Sturgeon, who had impressed in the national television debate the previous week, came under greater fire against her Scottish opponents. She was boxed into a corner and declared that the SNP MPs would vote for Full Fiscal Autonomy within a year if it was possible. Labour claims that this would remove the Barnett funding mechanism and leave Scotland with a huge cut to its budget. She also faced trouble when asked if the SNP would commit to another referendum in either the 2015 or 2016 manifestos.
While declaring that she hadn’t started to think about the 2016 manifesto (to audience groans) she did not rule out putting in another commitment for a referendum, arguing that it would depend on the circumstances.
Jim Murphy limited much of his comments to the key pledges that Scottish Labour over more nurses, zero hour’s contracts and the living wage. He articulated his argument about the pooling and sharing of resources, and made some direct appeals to Yes voters who had previous been Labour.
Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie were both tasked with having to defend the UK Government’s record, and pointed to falling unemployment; rising employment and figures showing that Britain was the fastest growing economy in the West.
For the second debate, Patrick Harvie was asked if he could join a coalition with a pro-capitalist party, and was unable to provide a definitive answer. David Corburn focused his comments on Europe.
The debates were passionate, argumentative but also revealed one of the weaknesses of this election – far too much time has been dedicated to debates over process and not enough about policies. It’s up for debate whether audience members were any the wiser afterwards.
Ipsos Mori this week unveiled research commissioned by the BBC which looked at the priorities of Scottish voters.
Of the twenty three options presented to those polled, the top three were; increase minimum wage for those aged 21; pension rises over next five years and price freezes. Interestingly, holding another independence referendum ranked only nineteenth. The lowest priority for voters was the renewal of Trident.
The research demonstrates what pollsters have been saying for some time – the political makeup of Scottish voters and their concerns are not radically different from people across the rest of the UK.
Prime Minster in Scotland
David Cameron made his first trip to Scotland as part of a whistle-stop tour of the four nations. He pushed forward his key messages around the economy and warned that voting a Labour government in would undo the work by the Coalition and result in greater debt for the country. He accused Ed Miliband of being anti-business and would hit families with rises in taxation.