Four out of five parliamentary candidates, minus Ukip candidate Robert Smith, faced a grilling from Brae High School pupils on Tuesday in a hustings chaired by teacher Irvine Tait.
The first question, whether we should renew Trident, received an unequivocal “yes” from Conservative candidate Donald Cameron. He said: “We live in uncertain times and face threats from rogue powers. It’s an insurance policy.” However he added that we should work towards multi-lateral reduction talks later.
Liberal Democrat candidate Alistair Carmichael said the nuclear deterrent should be replaced, but “not on a like for like basis”. It should be smaller, “down a rung or two”, and he would like all nuclear powers to “take a step back”. He wished nuclear weapons had not been invented, but was “realistic” about it and nuclear countries had to take responsibility for them.
Old conflicts could spark up, he said, and “the world is not a safe place”.
SNP candidate Danus Skene said the “unusable” Trident system should not be renewed, and pointed out it relied for use on the command system of the US as part of Nato.
He declared himself to be a “unilateralist” in not wanting it, and said: “I can’t see any scenario in which it would be used.” And unlike most insurance policies, which can be discussed after an event, after the use of the nuclear deterrent: “None of us will be here.”
Labour candidate Gerry McGarvey said Trident makes us more secure, and added: “We’re all keen to address the reduction of harm in the world, it’s a fragile place. Putin is not a nice guy and anything could happen.”
The referendum was the next topic. No, said Mr Skene, there would not be another one within five years unless there was a significant constitutional change in the UK, such as voting to leave the EU, and it would have to be an issue in a Scottish election. It had, however, “moved the tectonic plates”.
None of the others wanted another referendum, Mr McGarvey said: “The people have spoken”, Mr Cameron said the referendum experience had been, and was still divisive, and Mr Carmichael said: “Absolutely not.” He promised that the powers for Scotland promised in the Smith Commission would happen.
To the question is Ed Miliband fit to be Prime Minister, Mr McGarvey said: “Hell yes!” He said he disliked the American style of debate which focused on personalities, but Mr Miliband had put forward a cogent case for what his party represented.
Mr McGarvey rejected the prospect of being linked with the SNP: “Why would I want to enter a coalition with a party whose sole purpose is to annihilate Labour? The easiest way to get Labour is to vote Labour.”
Mr Cameron said he hoped David Cameron remained Prime Minister as he offered more hope for the next five years, and rejected tactical voting: “You should vote for who you want.”
Mr Carmichael said he would not particularly like either Ed Miliband or David Cameron to be Prime Minister – both have failings of personality and politics.
It was mentioned that Mr Miliband lived in an expensive house and Mr Skene was Eton-educated – the latter said people should be judged by their actions.
When asked if people could trust the Lib Dems after they had promised not to put up tuition fees, Mr Carmichael said coalition was a compromise but he listed other achievements – the economy was under control, inflation was low, taxes had been cut for low earners, the NHS budget had been protected in real terms and much more.
Mr Skene said he did not enjoy the prospect of living in “foodbank Britain”, which was echoed by Mr McGarvey.
But Mr Cameron said the coalition had delivered economic security.
The final question required the panel to name the personal qualities they would bring to the post of MP.
Mr Skene said: “It’s not for me to judge”, but cited his experience and ability to listen. Mr Carmichael said: “I’m very modest”, and Mr McGarvey said: “There are four men here with integrity, people know what the parties represent, we’re prepared to listen and take on board what people say.”
And Mr Cameron ended the proceedings by saying: “I’m impatient, I want to get things done.” He reiterated: “Vote for what you believe in.”