Scottish independence divides Book Festival audience

Scottish independence divides Book Festival audience

The future of Scotland was debated at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last night in a sold out event in the Spiegeltent.

Chair Magnus Linklater, Scottish Editor of The Times, was joined by former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell MSP and historian Neal Ascherson to debate the end of the Union.

During the debate Russell proposed that the Union was a ‘sentimental historical construct’ and that Scottish people had lost their fear of independence. Whilst Menzies Campbell put forward the case for radical constitutional reform, not only of devolution but also of the House of Lords and electoral reform. The final proposition of the evening came from Neil Ascherson who likened the breaking up of the Union not to a divorce but to a marriage; a big decision that should not be taken lightly as independence is a ‘one way street’.

Following the speeches members of the audience spoke on the topic and questioned the panel on the economic, social and political implications of independence on border control, EU membership and defence policy. A subsequent vote found that roughly half of the audience agreed that we are witnessing the early stages of the break-up of Britain, with the other half voting against the idea.

To close the debate Chair Magnus Linklater pressed Mike Russell for the exact phrasing which will appear on the ballot paper at the referendum. Whilst Russell refused to divulge this information he did say that it would be known in advance once the time was right and a full and wide ranging debate on the topic had taken place in Scotland.

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