Helen Martin: Poor debate no help to voters

Alistair Darling has a vested interest in staying in the union. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Alistair Darling has a vested interest in staying in the union. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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THE struggle to get my head around all the nuances of the independence debate goes on. Somehow it’s all so much more nasty, vicious, combative and negative than I ever expected it to be.

And I’m becoming more and more convinced to vote Yes if only because this “marriage” already seems irreconcilable. The bile that is pouring out of Westminster doesn’t bode well for any necessary reconciliation that will presumably be necessary if we vote No.

Most bewildering of all is David Cameron’s pledge to do all in his power to keep the Union together, while refusing to discuss and debate the issue with Alex Salmond. I find it remarkable that he thinks Alistair Darling is a suitable leader for the Better Together campaign.

Cameron insists it’s a question for Scotland to decide. So why put a man whose job is based in London in charge? Mr Darling has a home, friends and family in Edinburgh. But apart from them and his constituents who may regard him as “local”, to most Scots he’s a Westminster MP, about as Scottish as Tony Blair.

There is one huge elephant-in-the-room type reason why he should not be the figurehead of the Union case and that is his personal, vested interest in a No vote that for me, casts a shadow on every “objective” argument he tries to put up against 
independence.

If Scotland were to leave the Union, Darling would have no place in Westminster, nor would any of the other Scottish MPs. Since much of the backbone of the Labour Party is Scottish, it’s quite possible that Labour would find it very hard to win an election or put together a decent Cabinet without them and their votes.

Darling isn’t just fighting for the Union because he believes it’s best for Scotland. He’s fighting for his very political life, status, and future, possibly his raison d’etre. It’s 
personal.

If it is indeed a matter to be settled by those in Scotland, why isn’t Better Together led by a Unionist from the Scottish Parliament? A Tory wouldn’t hold much sway in the hot seat, so I can just about understand Cameron’s reluctance to step up to the plate, but there are plenty of Labour and Liberal candidates to choose from at Holyrood. And what’s the role of the Scottish Secretary?

After years of brainwashing voters in England into believing Scotland is a burden on them, taking more than our share of finance and resources, and to such an extent that increasing numbers of people in England were telling opinion polls they wanted to be rid of us, leaders at the recent Tory conference had to perform a volte-face and convince delegates that actually, the rest of the Union would be worse off without us. A matter for Scotland to decide? Apparently not, as Ruth Davidson and Mr Cameron are now at pains to point out it should be a matter of great concern to everyone in the UK.

The standard of debate is dire. Alex Salmond puts up his plans and ideas and Better Together knocks them down. But calls for some, any, Unionist thoughts on post-referendum policies following either outcome, continue to fall on deaf ears. For Salmond it must be like trying to play a game of football against a team of 11 goalies.

At this rate, how can anyone imagine the referendum will yield a fair, honest, once-and-for-all result?

Right to protect assistance dogs

DOGS, like people, are all individuals. A well-behaved, well-trained, gentle dog is a “civilised” creature who has been taught to obey rules and is therefore vulnerable when faced with a vicious, aggressive, violent dog, out for blood.

Guide Dogs can be the most vulnerable of all. Focussed on their duty, hazards, traffic and looking after their owner, they are sitting ducks if some mad, bad, fanged bully decides to attack.

Of course, it’s not the devil-dog’s fault. It’s the owner’s. It’s good that changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act mean an attack on an assistance dog will now carry a higher sentence. Re-naming it the Dangerous Owners Act would be even better and put the blame squarely where it belongs.

Internet priority shows we’re daft

YOU know the world’s gone crackers when Scots are leaving rural areas not because they can’t get jobs, or higher education, access specialist medical care, afford a house, or find a partner, but because they can’t get superfast broadband.

One day the entire internet’s going to crash and we’re all going to slit our own throats in despair.

Well played on school use plan

JUST to prove that councils do get it right sometimes, Edinburgh is planning to open up school playgrounds after hours and during holidays for local children.

In paranoiac world, where kids are driven to cushioned play centres by adults, where there’s often a shortage of safe, green space and any that does exist has “No Ball Games” notices, it’s a stroke of genius.

I just hope elf ‘n’ safety won’t ruin it, there’s a budget for a stray ball breaking a window, overprotective parents won’t try to claim damages every time a child comes home with “skint” knees – and there’s no rule prohibiting homemade biscuits.

BROUGHT TO THE BOIL

ONE in six of us has never cooked a meal from scratch, says a Co-operative Food survey. Don’t know about you but I’m astonished as many as five out of six have!