HARRY Reid believes television can exert great influence on the outcome of the current referendum campaign ("Compelling case for a referendum TV debate", The Herald, February 12).
Depending on the identity and form of the participants, a series of televised debates transmitted close to voting day could add clarity and passion to the proceedings. Why, though, in the final crucial days of the campaign, advocate a place at the lectern for anyone other than First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron?
Unlike presidential debates in America or a General Election in this country, the final days of the referendum campaign should be about issues, and the voters' absolute right to know where an independent Scotland would stand in the world. What's needed is an opportunity for the two most senior politicians in Scotland and, seen separately, the United Kingdom, to present their case. In the unlikely event David Cameron was prepared to participate in such an arrangement, a case could be made for them meeting three times in the last few weeks of the campaign.
Topics could be drawn from a variety of sources, including the general public, and cover all the main issues. Far from limiting the broadcasts to Scotland the BBC – and anyone else interested in public service broadcasting – should be pressed to show all three programmes the length and breadth of its fiefdom. Surely, by then, the rest of Britain will have wakened to the fact that Europe is not the main story of the day.
Voters who are unwilling to let their hearts rule their heads are entitled to know the exact nature of the decision they are being asked to make.
This will be the third time since 1979 a referendum has been used to determine Scotland's future. The last of these, in 1997, was a fairly straightforward affair and it produced the Scottish Parliament. Its forerunner, with its appeals to the Court of Session, and the iniquitous 40% rule, was a mess. But it is from 1979 that I offer a lesson to today's broadcasters. Then we covered every vote with a live programme direct from London; while trying to ensure, on a daily and weekly basis, that no issue was left uncovered. To some it was overkill. At the time, I reckoned that whatever the result, in some quarters it would be seen as our fault. And so it proved. Just make sure, as the big day approaches and the votes come in, "naebody can say they wurnae telt".
Former Head of News, Current Affairs and Sport, Scottish Television,
73 Norwood Park, Bearsden.
I AGREE there should be televised debates and that they should be impeccable in all their aspects. But I disagree that the principal speaker on the Better Together side should be the Prime Minister. We cannot shut anybody up, but this is a Scottish referendum, and should be preceded by an essentially Scottish debate.
Mr Cameron sits for an English constituency. The people who lead the attempt to divert Scots from choosing a better national future are the Scottish Unionist parliamentarians, whether MPs, MSPs or MEPs, who sit for constituencies here, and I think it is they who should take responsibility for choosing representatives from among their own number, to face the leaders of the Yes Scotland campaign in such debates.
Looking to London for a lead is the very habit Scottish Unionists need to put behind them.
Michael F Troon,
15 Crawford Avenue,
I WAS astonished and bemused to read that the legal academics advising the UK Government have suggested that, under international law, Scotland was actually extinguished by the 1707 Treaty of Union ("State 'extinguished' by 1707 treaty", The Herald, February 12). They suggest that Scotland ceased to exist, either by being merged into a new state (the United Kingdom), or into "an enlarged and renamed England".
I have just read through the entire treaty again, and there is not even a hint anywhere of an intention that Scotland should cease to exist. In fact several of the clauses provide specifically for the continuation of Scotland's separate legal system, its religious freedom, its representation in the new unified parliament and its trading rights and privileges. That hardly implies that the intention was simply to extinguish Scotland.
The treaty was supposed to be between two sovereign states as equals, even if one had and still has a much larger population than the other. There is nothing in the wording of the document to suggest that Scotland was merely to be subsumed within an enlarged and renamed England. That is a fiction not supported by any legal principle. It is more probably based on the behaviour of many subsequent Westminster parliaments towards Scotland through the years, supported by the imbalance of voting power, but it has no legal basis at all.
One final thought. If the distinguished legal experts are right and Scotland was indeed extinguished in 1707, then surely England, the only other signatory to the Treaty, must also have ceased to exist from that date? Are the No campaigners happy to go along with that theory too? What will the rest of the world call the UK then?
Iain A D Mann,
7 Kelvin Court, Glasgow.
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