It is Referendum Week at the University of Stirling, a time for the politically active members to display their passions and convey them to the rest of the student body. The week is marked by a number of events by both sides of the Scottish independence debate – Yes Scotland and Better Together – such as stalls in the atrium, and a number of speeches and meetings by both sides as they attempt to capture our imaginations in the lead up to the referendum on the 18th September.
One such event was the Stirling University Independence Debate on the 14th April; a chance for students, staff and the public alike to hear the arguments of both sides of the fence. An opportunity for all who were there to consider the two versions of Scotland’s future that Stirling University Students for Yes Scotland and Better Together Stirling University were proposing.
With topics such as the EU, the currency, Trident, and oil all hot topics on the debating table this was sure to be a fiery debate.
Standing for the Yes side, panelists MSP Angela Constance, writer Alan Bisset, and Stirling’s Yes ambassador Miriam Brett set forth their arguments in their opening statements. They spoke of the vibrancy of Scotland’s economy: it’s oil, true, but also its food, drink, tourism, manufacturing, hospitality, and many more that make our economy able to stand alone. Alan Bisset highlighted the “excitement” that independence would bring as a result of independence, but also of the benefits this debate has brought already.
“We have never seen people displaying this sort of passion in politics for so long”, says Alan.
Angela Constance delved into the facts and said that Scotland would be the fourteenth richest country with independence.
After winning the coin toss and choosing to go second, Better Together’s Douglas Rooney, Labour activist, editor of the National Gazette, and former Yes campaigner, took the stage. He opened with a speech from King James VI, which set the tone for the Better Together argument.
“Are we to believe this family of nations have drifted apart? Far from it! Together we have done and will continue to do great things”, Rooney argued.
Indeed, as Air3’s Alan Grant and Labour councillor Danny Gibson set forth their visions the message was clear: we are stronger together, accomplish more together than we do when we don’t. Alan Grant highlighted the improbability of a currency union, and argued the dangers and uncertainty that independence would bring. Scotland could have the best of both world, BT claimed, further devolution – which they said was inevitable – our own parliament, while still being a member of a strong union.
Devolution, currency, Trident, Europe, and defence were all questions raised to the panel.
Yes Scotland argued that there would be no reason for Scotland not to be accepted as a member of the EU, and stated that Scotland would not have to use the euro. Better Together rejected this idea, and put forward the need to remain part of a family in difficult times.
On devolution, Alan Bisset argued that devolution would not happen, and that the UK just want to make Scotland think devolution is possible. This is why devolution is not an option on the ballot, he said, because only with independence can Scotland truly have a government that represents our interests. Alan Grant was sceptical, however, and noted how all the parties in the Scottish Parliament have set forward their own versions of devolution so devolution in any form would be guaranteed, and would be provided by a party that Scotland had voted for.
The whole debate was not just confined to the walls of lecture theatre A3. Avid social media users in the room were using the hashtag stirdebate to voice their thoughts on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, so many used the hashtag that it trended UK-wide! A recording of the whole debate is also available on YouTube as well.
It was amazing to see such a diverse audience at the event, with people from many nationalities and ages putting their questions to the panel. All the panelists put up a strong case for both their versions of Scotland’s future.
Scotland will go to the polls on the 18th September this year and will be asked to decide whether to stay as a “family of nations”, or take its future in to its own hands.