Question Time: 5/3/15

Question one asked about the proposed debates ahead of the election and whether David Cameron is running scared. Ruth Davidson, of the Scottish Conservatives, recommended an independent review like there is in America. Danny Alexander, of the Liberal Democrats, said that he was running scared and should ‘man up’. He said that it was part of the process, but debates between leaders are still new in this country, with the first one being held at the last election in 2010. Toby Young, of the Spectator, argued that he is not scared because he is taking part in one and that the debates can become a sideshow to the election and that analysis of records is more important. Val McDermid, an author, gave her opinion that with seven leaders, it would become a soundbite contest, which I think is likely to happen under the proposed format. Kezia Dugdale, of the Scottish Labour Party, called David Cameron ‘chicken’ and that he should take part. Humza Yousaf, of the SNP, argued that Cameron does not want to take part in the debates because of his record and said that the debates should go ahead regardless. He also said that if the Prime Minister is not there, he should be empty chaired in a manner similar to that from Have I Got News For You years ago with Roy Hattersley, recommending Eton Mess instead.

The second question asked what impact an election of lots of SNP politicans would mean for the UK government. Dugdale views the predicted polls as great for the Prime Minister because it will reduce the number of Labour MPs elected. Davidson disagreed, pointing out that both the Conservatives and the SNP will not work together after the election. She also urged people to vote for the candidate they wanted to win in their seat and that the SNP would look to break the UK up as opposed to govern it. Yousaf said that lots of SNP MPs would be positive for the UK government and that the SNP would not work with the Conservatives; he did say that they would look at working with Labour, but on an issue-by-issue basis and would work with other progressive parties; Dugdale claimed that the SNP are not a progressive party, particularly with regards to tax. Alexander claimed that the SNP are more interested in arguments than governing and would have a negative impact on Westminster politics. He also said that the Liberal Democrats would talk to the party that received the most votes first in the event of no party holding a majority. Young argued that the impact of the number of SNP MPs would depend upon the result of the election and that a small Conservative majority is possible, thus diminishing their impact, although if Labour had the most seats but no majority, they would have a greater impact that could be damaging. McDermid said that it was felt in Scotland that the SNP represent the people and that a large number of SNP MPs could change Labour policies.

Davidson claimed that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are currently not trusted, which is why they are struggling in the polls; in contrast, she felt that regardless of whether people agree or not, the Conservatives are seen as saying what they believe. Young said that Ed Miliband has not ruled out a deal with the SNP because he sees it as his best chance of becoming Prime Minister and that he would be prepared to make any deal in return for their support. Alexander argued that the best government would be one with the Liberal Democrats supporting either Labour or the Conservatives because they would moderate policies.

The third question asked if there should be stronger laws concerning ‘Hate Preaching’ on university campuses. Yousaf argued that stronger laws could see fuel being added, with extremists claiming that they are being denied the right to free speech. Young argued that those advocating violence are already banned, but those advocating extremism are not and should not be because there is a right to free speech and that they should be engaged in debate. Davidson argued that a change in the law would hand a victory to extremists because it would see life in the country being changed. Alexander pointed out that advocating violence is already outlawed and that the debate concerns a widening of the law and that debate is better than the passing of new laws or strengthening of existing ones. McDermid argued that building a strong society would see the ideas of extremists being rejected out of hand. Dugdale’s view was that debate is the way forward and the universities are the place for this. None of the panel favoured the passing of new laws or the strengthening of new ones. In Young’s opinion, an open debate would reduce the impact of extremist speakers.

Question four concerned Scottish A&Es missing their targets. Davidson mentioned the sheer weight of numbers, with over 80,000 more patients that six years ago and that integrating social and medical care would help. Dugdale said that the struggle to see GPs is contributing and that more funding is needed, which Labour would fund through a ‘Mansion Tax’. Alexander’s view is that there is a serious problem and that more funding is required, which the SNP control in Scotland. Yousaf said that he wanted to get away from politics being played with the NHS and that the SNP are funding it in Scotland, but there is more work still to be done. Young argued that the proposed ‘Mansion Tax’ would not result in more nurses in Scotland because they have already spent it several times over in proposals. McDermid generally agreed with Davidson and recommended that more is done on prevention instead of cure.

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