I HAVE great admiration for Nicola Sturgeon’s capacity to handle hostile questioning from the UK media and she displayed this once again on Monday night in the BBC interview with Andrew Neil.

Neil floundered somewhat in his desire to pursue questions which Nicola answered frankly and rationally. For example, Nicola said post-Brexit conditions and independence plans are difficult to discuss because we are in an election period and we don’t yet know what a Brexit deal will look like.

Neil went round and round the gardens on this with his usual hectoring demeanour. The purpose of this is to undermine and confuse interviewees and put them on the back foot.

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Where Nicola appeared to be on shaky ground was on two points: the Growth Commission and Scotland’s deficit.

Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission has been a source of controversy among the Yes movement, who largely have condemned it as a reflection of the neoliberal thinking that brought about the 2008 banking crash. His six-point strategy towards a new Scottish currency is unnecessary and complicates what is essentially a fairly simple process. Last night it was used to go after the First Minister and left her looking vulnerable.

The second issue about Neill’s claim of Scotland “having the highest deficit in Europe” is easily answered. Scotland doesn’t have a deficit because the arrangements around the Barnett Formula don’t allow it. Scotland has to stay within its budget. Scotland has been allocated a proportion of the UK deficit which includes UK borrowing on HS2 ,Crossrail and many of the other grand projects for London and the south-east.

Additionally, Scotland’s tax revenues to the Treasury exceed the amounts that come back to Scotland via the Barnett Formula.

Both these issues need to be challenged vigorously by the Scottish Government now, because they will resurface again and again when we get into the run up for a new Scottish independence referendum.

Maggie Chetty

NOT usually a critic of Nicola Sturgeon’s interviews as she performs very well, but slightly disappointed that she allowed herself to be bullied by Andrew Neil. This is not an election about the Scottish NHS, and she could have mentioned that and suggested he may want to come back in two years to discuss that at the Holyrood election.

As to the interrogation about Scottish independence, this election is not about that per se, but about Scotland’s right to hold a referendum. I wish that Nicola had attacked rather than defended. However, let’s see how the other leaders cope – if he is as aggressive to the British nationalists as he was to Nicola.

George Rhind

IT would have been naive to expect Andrew Neil to be anything other than his usual aggressive, interrupting, hectoring self while interviewing Nicola Sturgeon on Monday night. He certainly didn’t let us down.

Starting from the problems of negotiating with a possible Labour minority government, where his questioning displayed a singular failure to recognise that if Labour don’t have a majority, which SNP support can provide them (rather like the DUP did for the Conservatives), then negotiations would have to take place in which the aims of both sides would be discussed. Certainly, the SNP would not approach these as a supplicant. Agreement requires both sides gain something. In the case of the DUP, buckets of cash.

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More serious though was when he turned to how quickly an independent Scotland, after a Yes vote, could re-join the European Union. The foundation of Neil’s argument was to claim that Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission stated that Scotland could not join the EU for a period of 5-10 years. Where does this come from?

As we all know, the Growth Commission recommended that Scotland use sterling in the first instance, until six tests are passed and we launch our own currency. What Neil did was to connect this with the possibility that the lack of our own currency, as a candidate country, would prevent us being able to join the EU. However, it is important to be clear that the Growth Commission says at no point what Neil has claimed – and continued afterwards to claim on Twitter. The fact is that the European Union is mentioned only 12 times in that report and never in the context of joining.

However, regarding using sterling in the first instance, the First Minister made the point that Scotland was “on a journey with respect to currency” (ie Andrew Wilson’s 5-10 years). Neil found this reply “very uncertain”, and of course it will be.

The future, after all, is inherently uncertain, and it is here there is a weakness in policy toward the EU, for just as there is no guarantee that EU negotiations will be obstructed because of the lack of our own currency, there is no guarantee that this will not happen.

In that event, might a more developed policy say that should there be delay because of currency, we would agree regulatory alignment with the EU so that we have access to the single market in the same way as Norway does? If there is a real possibility that currency in the early days of independence could prove an obstacle, then should there not be a contingency plan setting out how this might be addressed?

I dare say such as Neil will continue to object – they always will – but from the point of view of bringing more over to Yes, it seems a constructive strategy to recognise when there are real inherent uncertainties (as opposed to scaremongering) by setting out alternative ways forward.

Alasdair Galloway

MORE questions than answers! Perhaps because they don’t want an answer. The BBC seem to have a special format when interviewing SNP politicians. Gordon Brewer would seem to know no other way. Maybe he just can’t handle answers as they muddle his brain.

Fiona Bruce bowled them in ten to the dozen on Friday night, interrupting answers from Nicola mid-flow and posing more of her own questions than from her audience.

Andrew Neil, same again on Monday night. Repeatedly asking questions for the hell of it, it seemed. He’d ask a question and no sooner would an answer be forthcoming than he’d interrupt with the next, all presumably designed to give viewer impression that she couldn’t give a coherent answer.

Nicola was spot-on when bully-boy said "I’d like to know where you got your figures". "I’d like to know where you got yours" was her response.

Some might say don’t watch the BBC, don’t pay the licence fee. I say, if we want to win this election, watch the BBC – it doesn’t half get your gander up to put everything you’ve got into winning it.

Tom Gray