THE BBC, Trident, socialism, republicanism, universal benefits, Team GB and globalisation - for an event focused on identity and independence, the Sunday Herald debate at the Mitchell Theatre in Glasgow on Thursday night certainly covered a lot of ground.

The idea behind our series of debates is to provide an arena to discuss the issues surrounding independence free of the constraints and combative culture of mainstream party politics, which is why we have so far avoided inviting MPS and MSPs to take part. And to a large extent we succeeded in that aim. It was a civilised evening, with few raised voices and a welcome absence of the politicians' habit of shouting down opponents.

Only panellist Brian Wilson, a former Labour MP, faced a genuinely angry reaction – when he spoke out in favour of student tuition fees and against universal social benefits.

To his credit, Wilson refused to dilute his opinions for an easy ride. Some of those following our live feed on Twitter questioned whether it was worth reporting his views – a reminder that some people have not quite grasped that to allow a debate to take place it is necessary to listen to a range of opinions.

Wilson was just one member of a five-strong panel, who each demonstrated a different reaction to the current constitutional debate.

Historian Tom Devine has long refused to be drawn on whether he supports independence or not – the future, he says, is not his period.

He kept to this line on Thursday, preferring instead to challenge notions that many of the problems facing modern Scotland are unique to our country. Health problems and social inequality can easily be found elsewhere, he said, warning against what he described as "negative navel-gazing" which made us feel like downtrodden victims.

Devine clashed often with Wilson, particularly over tuition fees. Scotland, Devine said, had a world-class further education system which had developed without such fees.

Folk singer Karine Polwart's connection to the independence debate came more from the emotions rather than a rigorous examination of the fine detail of what independence would mean, and her contributions produced some of the most memorable quotes. Scotland's larger public sector said something beautiful about our culture, she told the audience. It showed that we cared. She dismissed doubts about our financial future by countering: "I want to live in a country where the big question on independence is not, 'Will I be better off?'."

Actor Elaine C Smith shared Polwart's lack of interest in the financial questions. "Will I be richer under independence? It's about more than money," she said.

Smith is a long-time supporter of independence but is more ambivalent about the SNP. "I am a socialist republican," she declared. "And the SNP will not produce the kind of country I want. But it is a stepping stone," she said.

Those doubts seemed to be shared by others in the audience. One person expressed concerns about SNP plans to retain the monarchy, sterling and possibly even Nato membership. "The SNP is no longer a party of independence," he said.

Kenny Deuchar, a former professional footballer and now a doctor, shared other panellists' impatience with getting bogged down in paralysing detail. He liked to keep things simple and clear, he said and his contributions were to the point and straightforward.

It seemed to us to have been a successful evening – hopefully those who attended agree. We are organising a series of other events linked to the independence debate, and we are happy consider ideas from readers. We'll publish full details as soon as they are confirmed.