IndyRef2 would not 'rebuild Scotland' says Scottish voter
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Leaders across Scotland’s top political parties have taken part in a televised debate tonight in the latest head to head battle ahead of May’s election. Scots will head to the polls on May 9, voting to elect 129 members of the Scottish Parliament across 73 constituencies. The debate saw First Minister Nicola Sturgeon under fire for focusing on a second independence referendum while Scotland was still recovering from the impacts of coronavirus.
Tonight’s televised debate on STV saw SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, Liberal Democrat co-leader Willie Rennie, Green Party leader Patrick Harvie and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar go head to head.
This is the second televised debate of the election, with the first taking place last month on BBC Scotland.
The leaders tonight debated a potential second Scottish independence referendum, the Government’s response to the pandemic and climate concerns.
Lockdown measures, the economy and education were also up for debate tonight.
Express.co.uk has broken down the key points of each candidate’s appearance tonight – vote for your winner on the poll below.
Read More: Scotland election polls: How are the SNP faring in the polls?
Anas Sarwar – Scottish Labour
Mr Sarwar made clear he didn’t support the referendum or independence and instead would focus on pandemic recovery to make Scotland a “stronger nation”.
The Scottish Labour said Scotland “can’t go back to the old arguments” pre-Covid, adding a national recovery from the pandemic “must be our collective national mission”.
Mr Sarwar said voters were worried about vaccines, keeping loved ones safe, and the planet, and that’s what they should be debating – not the referendum.
Mr Sarwar argued politicians must “focus on what unites us as a country, not what divides us”.
In the wake of coronavirus, Mr Sarwar insisted: “A national recovery can’t just be a slogan. It must be our collective national mission.”
Questioned by Mr Ross on opening the economy quicker, Mr Sarwar said: “I think we’re getting the balance right.
“I think we’ve got to strike the right balance.
“It’s important we don’t go so slowly that we stifle hope and optimism, but we can’t go too quickly to cause another spread and another lockdown. Follow the data and the science.”
On the economy, Mr Sarwar said there was a “generational shift towards climate change” he added the Government needs “to confront emergency” but “has to make sure that a transition doesn’t decimate jobs in the process.”
He explained parliament needs to work with industries to make progress.
Patrick Harvie – Scottish Greens
Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie said this election offers a chance to stop climate change “spiralling out of control”.
On the subject of a referendum, Mr Harvie said the Green Party were instead “proposing detailed plans for job creation.”
He added: “We are going to face economic problems, need more economic powers.
“The country needs to be able to have this debate in a civilised way. Not reopening wounds – opening possibility.”
On the climate, Mr Harvie said he wished: “Scotland had its own seat at the table at the climate negotiations.”
He added: “Our constituents are going to represented by a UK Gov appointed represented by someone with links to the palm oil industry.”
He also said: “Over the next 10 years we should be investing in sustainable energy which will create jobs.”
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Nicola Sturgeon – SNP
Nicola Sturgeon’s opening remarks saw her pledge to offer “strong leadership”.
She also pledged to give Scots a choice in a second referendum, however later acknowledged recovery was the key focus in this election.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The future of the country should be for the people of the country to decide.”
She added the Government needs “to make sure we have the powers to rebuild the country we need”.
Later, Ms Sturgeon acknowledged her party had “taken” their “eye off the ball” in terms of drug deaths however she was “determined to turn that around”.
When questioned by Mr Rennie on the poverty attainment gap Ms Sturgeon said “Covid had upended plans” but “Level 5 and Level 6 have been closed, just not completely.”
She added: “I’m not going to say we couldn’t have done more.”
Ms Sturgeon accepted there was “more to do”, urging people to “elect me to be First Minister to continue to build on the progress we are making”.
Willie Rennie – Scottish Liberal Democrats
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie began his opening remarks urging voters to “put recovery first” instead of another independence referendum.
On the possibility of a referendum, Mr Rennie said: “Boris Johnson was reckless to pursue Brexit.”
He said it would be “equally reckless to pursue independence”.
Mr Rennie said: “We’re still in the wake of the most deadly pandemic.
“Over 10,000 people have lost their life, thousands more have lost their job, this is not the moment for another referendum.”
He added: “We need to work together for recovery. Independence is too divisive at the moment.”
On exiting the EU, Mr Rennie said his party “will work to persuade people over time the merits of rejoining the EU.”
Questioned about education, the Lib Dem leader said: “We want to employ more teachers to make every minute count in schools.
“Making the pupil equity fund permanent. We want to prioritise education.”
Douglas Ross – Scottish Conservatives
Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross began the debate saying the “strong foundations of the UK” will offer Scotland’s best road to recovery from Covid.
Mr Ross slammed the SNPs and Nicola Sturgeon for focusing on the referendum, instead saying the Scottish Tories would focus on rebuilding the economy, jobs and recovery after the pandemic.
He said Ms Sturgeon was undermining everything “needed to be done to get through the health crisis” by campaigning for a referendum.
Mr Ross said other issues such as tackling drug deaths, improving mental health care and increasing the number of police officers should take priority.
He insisted: “We can recover from Covid using the strong foundations of the United Kingdom, we can tackle the looming economic crisis.
“But we won’t manage any of that if the SNP get a majority and hold another divisive referendum.”
Questioned by his peers on climate change, Mr Ross said measures were “included in our green recovery plan” adding his party would create “green jobs”.
He was also questioned about comments he had made in the past about the traveller community.
Mr Ross said: “I’ve apologised for the comments I made – it was the wrong answer. In my time as a councillor and MP, I have stood up for my constituents – there was a big issue.”
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