Greens snatch vote from SNP at Abertay Scottish election hustings
MSP candidates from the Scottish National Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Conservative Party and Scottish Green Party took part in a Question Time-style debate at Abertay University today (Monday 21 March).
Lesley Brennan MSP (Labour), Christian Allard MSP (SNP), Murdo Fraser MSP (Tories), Daniel Coleman (Lib Dems), and Maggie Chapman (Co-convener of the Scottish Greens) were all invited as part of the Sociology Division’s Critical Thinking Module.
This was the final debate in a series of six that had been running at the University since January. The aim of the module is to facilitate the development of students’ critical thinking skills, and debate topics are chosen for their contemporary relevance and for the fact that there are no easy answers.
At today’s debate, electronic keypads were distributed to the audience before the debate started and students were asked to select which party they would vote for.
Reflecting Dundee’s political scene, 44 per cent of the assembled students opted for the SNP, the Greens got 19 per cent and the Conservatives received 16 per cent of the vote.
Each candidate was then given the opportunity to make a case for their party in a four-minute opening statement.
This was followed by three questions, as well as spontaneous responses, from the student audience.
Maryam Deeni asked what Scotland could do to help more refugees – especially those stuck in Calais and Greece stemming from the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
Karen Murphy admitted to being swayed by voting to leave the EU and asked the panel to convince her that Scotland and the UK’s future should be in the EU.
Finally Claire Monribot sought the panel's views on whether they believed Scotland needed to change its corporate taxation to attract more international companies to set up here.
On each question, the panel members were invited to give their views in turn. While some sharp disagreements were evident throughout, both the Conservative's Murdo Fraser and the SNP's Christian Allard were mutually surprised to find themselves agreeing on UK tax policy.
To conclude, each member of the panel was invited to give a final one-minute party-political pitch.
The audience were then asked to select their likely voting preference having heard what the representatives of the parties had to say, and quite a swing was evident: the Greens received 41 per cent of the audience vote, the SNP 33 per cent and the Liberal Democrats 13 per cent.
Dr Donncha Marron, who leads the module and was Chair of today’s debate, said:
"That was quite a win for the Greens! Maggie Chapman, co-convenor of the party, gave an impassioned performance, particularly on the issue of the refugee crisis and the need for a fair taxation policy, and this clearly resonated with the audience.
“Daniel Coleman of the Liberal Democrats also did well. In the aftermath of the party's electoral implosion in the UK general election in 2015, the earnestness and focus on local issues of the youngest member of the panel was given a good hearing by the audience.
“However, we're really grateful to all the panel members for taking time out of their busy schedules to come and talk with Abertay students.
“Having heard debates on assisted dying and free speech during the course of the module, it was great that students had an opportunity to put questions of policy and politics to an assembled panel of politicians and political candidates. Hopefully the opportunity has helped inform the students where each party stands on some of the issues that matter today.”
As an elective module, students from across the University attended. As well as Sociology students, this year there were students studying Food and Consumer Science, Sport and Exercise Science, Computer Arts, Ethical Hacking and Business Studies, to name but a few.
The debates are followed-up by ‘Critical Thinking Seminars’ where students are tutored to identify the types of arguments presented, to evaluate competing perspectives and to reflect on their own reasoning processes and value assumptions.
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