TVdebates were more style over substance

WE have now seen both of the live TV Referendum debates and according to official figures 960,000 Scots tuned in to this week's BBC debate, with some 1.2million tuning in to the ­previous STV debate.

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There is general consensus that Alistair Darling was the victor in the first session and that Alex Salmond won the second.

In my opinion, there was little, quality debate undertaken.

Bernard Ponsonby and Glenn Campbell, tried admirably to keep order in both proceedings. Both had their moments in chairing the events, however Dimbleby and Paxman they are not.

As a consequence, the protagonists talked over each other, rambled off topic, ignored the line of questioning and shouted rather than spoke. Much of the content was lost in the noise.

The TV debates were hyped as "the decider" or "the final opportunity" for all of us to make up our minds, Yes or No.

Indeed, they built up the expectation of the live debates so much that many people might have thought it was actually a televised referendum.

Of course, they were nothing of the sort and they failed to deliver on expectations.

The latest opinion poll indicates that 11% of Scottish voters remain undecided.

Really! I would very much doubt, if at this stage, that anyone in Scotland is still undecided as to how they would vote. What we have is roughly 11% of people, refusing to tell the pollsters which way they would vote, in precisely the same way as they would refuse to tell them how much they earn.

Politics are very personal to some people and we should understand why many of them respond "I don't know".

If the purpose of the debates, therefore, was to convert the undecided then both sides had an impossible task on their hands.

There are some 4.1 million Scots entitled to vote in the referendum, 25% of them watched the debates. Perhaps, instead of ­reflecting on the arguments, we may wish to reflect on why 75% of Scots, simply didn't tune in?

The debates were important in the context of both campaigns, but they were certainly not decisive to the overwhelming majority of Scots, and certainly not "the decider."

The purpose of the debates were to inform, explain and debate the merits of both campaigns, to the Scottish electorate and enable them to make a more informed judgement on September 18, perhaps converting some from one camp to the other.

I think they failed in that task.

The debates fell victim to the preference of style over substance. A sort of, Politics meets the X Factor. There are crucial ­economic and social issues at the centre of the most important discussion in Scotland's recent history - shame they weren't on the telly!

The killing of three-year-old Mikaeel Kular, was a tragedy that touched so many across the country. The Edinburgh toddler was killed by his mother Rosdeep Adekoya and his body was dumped in a suitcase in woodland.

His mother then reported him missing and for two days hundreds of people searched in vain for the missing child.

His mother was subsequently charged with murder. However, that charge was then changed to culpable homicide.

Around 5000 people, including Mikaeels' father, signed a petition to have the charge amended back to murder. Now, following the conclusion of the trial, it has been revealed that with time off for good behaviour, his mother could be freed in five years.

Mikaeel, and our legal system, are failed by such a sentence. It doesn't feel to me like justice. Why the charge was amended from murder to culpable homicide remains a matter for the Crown Office. However, it appears to me, that someone has exercised poor judgement. Without judgement there can be no justice.

Just one of Scotland's 14 NHS Boards is meeting accident and emergency waiting times. The statistics relate to a national standard for admission, transfer, treatment or discharge. The waiting time standard is four hours.

Between April and June this year only NHS Tayside met the standard consistently. Health Secretary Alex Neill said "while the majority of patients continue to get the excellent care they deserve within shorter times, there is still more to be done".

A very interesting view, and indeed there is much to be done. 13 of our 14 Health Boards are failing to meet A&E waiting times and it appears to me that the Health Secretary has two choices.

He either lowers the national standards or makes better use of resources to meet the standards we have. Simple really!

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