Aftermath – A wee prayer for the debate

Due to some technical difficulties (a stubbornly AWOL remote control and a TV with no on button) I was left scrambling for the iPlayer feed and was not able to post the following wee prayer – written before the debate between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond. Now after the debate itself (spoiler alert) it makes for interesting reading.

May Alistair and Alex be on the same side of some joke at some point.

May the audience ask surprising questions.

May the debate not be described as historic, groundbreaking and the most important ever in Scotland.

May it not remind us of Question Time.

May we go off script.

Amen.

Now to get this out of the way – the referendum is about far more than these debates, these two men, the two parties they represent and the assertive back and forth politics they are trapped in. They play a role like the sausage rolls at the buffet. They’ll always be there, they’ll be a bit bland, a bit predictable but whet our appetite for the real thing.

So how was my prayer in retrospect?

May Alistair and Alex be on the same side of some joke at some point.

This seemed the most far fetched point but it came to pass! When asked about how both sides would work together – regardless of the result – Alex Salmond said that in the event of a Yes cote he would want to form a wide group of people to argue and make the best case for Scotland, he’d be looking for the best wherever they were on the spectrum – he said he’d love to have Alistair Darling on board. And Alistair smiled and looked genuinely touched. Alex Salmond gave props to Darling.

May the audience ask surprising questions.

By and large the questions were fairly typical but there were ones that shone out. One in particular was right near the end where a guy asked what would be done to sustain all the democratic energy (this was I think after a reference to a potential 80% [!] turn out) after the referendum is over. Darling did not pick up on this point but Salmond offered the drafting of the Constitution would make a good project for all that passion.

May the debate not be described as historic, groundbreaking and the most important ever in Scotland.

Sweet relief! Now I had a slightly confused start as I was desperately searching for the remote control and then finding the stream but as far as I gather the debate itself (not the campaign or referendum) was not described in the above terms. After the weird tacky, pomp of STV’s offering it was refreshing to have a fairly straightforward and unglitzy format. The Spin Room was a bit PoMo for me.

May it not remind us of Question Time.

I used to enjoy Question Time but when I have tuned in recently it seems to have descended inexorably into the territory of late night radio phone ins. I am sorry if this is sacrilege but I think Dimbelby has lost his touch. QT seems to be more about creating some kind of ‘boring entertainment’ than about providing a forum for discussion. Yes there were similarities to QT, but there always will be with the BBC running this kind of show. It felt refreshing that the host asked difficult questions – but not to grandstand and was comfortable fading into the background when necessary. There also wasn’t the same chronic tendency to try to balance everything all the time in the name of fairness (and in the cold hard pursuit of controversy and ratings).

May we go off script.

I don’t know how much of the debate went off script. I am glad at least there were several moments when it gained traction unlike last time when there was little traction or conversation to be had at all.

I’m sure Alex Salmond didn’t have it in his script to make Alistair Darling a job offer.

This debate gets us talking and that’s what really matters. We’re not voting for Labour or the SNP – we’re voting for ourselves. So you’ve seen them raise the topics – what do you want to do about it?

This Referendum is not about us sitting back and choosing between shopping list we like better. We are being asked to get up and do something about it. What vision do we want for Scotland? What are we going to do to make that vision a reality? After wrestling with that we come to our conclusion on whether it’s Yes or No.

What do you want Scotland to look like, feel like, sound like? And perhaps more esoterically, smell and taste like?

There’s no manifestos only suggestions.

It’s time to get suggesting.

Amen.

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