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Sober analysis is the goal in debate

It is widely acknowledged that the public have had enough of the "yah, boo, sucks" style adopted in the referendum debate by too many of our representatives.

The latest manifestation of this was Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls's jaunt to Edinburgh to warn that Alex Salmond is trying to "con" voters into opting for independence.

Regradless of viewpoint, it is fair to say that neither Mr Salmond nor any of the groups involved in the Yes campaign is looking to trick people into voting for independence. They believe it is in Scotland's best interests and wish to persuade voters this is the case.

There have been intemperate language and partisan personal jibes on both sides. Fortunately, others have risen above this unnecessary animosity. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's analysis, shared during a speech in Aberdeen yesterday, is one example.

Again, it is not necessary to agree with his position to acknowledge this. The calculations Mr Brown has made of oil revenues are a serious contribution to the debate and ask sensible questions about whether the SNP's White Paper was overly optimistic about the best and worst case scenarios. They can only be partially factual, as much is unknown.

Will oil revenues top £2.9 billion? Will they reach the £6.9bn on which many White Paper calculations are based? We cannot know. But Mr Brown is right to ask whether it is appropriate to rely on the upper estimate.

In warning that only £1 in £15 which the Scottish Government will need to spend on education, health and welfare will be covered by oil income, Mr Brown suggests this is "grounded in facts and figures in the real world".

Similarly, when Professor Andrew Goudie objected to the flimsiness of the pro-Union parties' proposals for more powers in the event of a No vote, his concerns were stated reasonably, based on the fact the three main parties have no agreed common programme in the event of a No vote.

Meanwhile, cost estimates for setting up an independent state are disputed, but those offered by the likes of Patrick Dunleavy of the London School Of Economics at least give people the chance to form a judgment. Whether set-up costs would be £1.5bn or £2.7bn it allows people to decide - is this too expensive? Or in the context of the overall budget, and over a decade or more, are such figures simply realistic?

Voters must accept that many of the questions about independence cannot be answered factually. Doubts over the future performance of global and local economies or oil prices, for example, and the fact many issues such as currency would be subject to negotiation after a Yes vote, demonstrate that we cannot have all the answers. But this does not mean we have to settle for partisan bickering or personalised slurs. Wise observers recognise that such knockabout politics have no place in a decision that will affect generations after today,s politicians are long gone.

For voters, the more sober analysis there is on offer from such as Mr Brown, Professor Goudie or Professor Dunleavy, the better.

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