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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 14 September 2007
PRESENTER: Eddie Mair

PANELLISTS: Ian Rankin
Magnus Linklater
Katie Grant
Robert Crawford

FROM: Business & Learning Conference Centre, Dunfermline


MAIR
Welcome to Any Questions from Lorder College in Dunfermline in Fife. Our hosts are Soroptimist International of Dunfermline who work to promote human rights and improve the status of women.

On our panel: one of Scotland's foremost journalists - Magnus Linklater. In a career that has spanned editor the Scotsman, working for the Observer, BBC Radio Scotland, Scotland on Sunday and a colourful few months working with Robin Maxwell on the London Daily News, he's now Scotland editor of The Times. Of the current political scene he wrote recently that the Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond had almost imperceptibly moved his tanks on to the centre ground. As for his own beliefs he wrote in May that he was a swithering voter caught between his mother's ardent nationalism and his father's innate conservatism, although he added - not a chromosome had been tweaked by the SNP over the years.

Katie Grant is a columnist and children's writer. Born in England but Scotland's been home for more than 20 years. She studied history and philosophy at the University of Glasgow and went on to teach medieval history there. In the past she's declared her opposition to the idea of a BBC TV evening news programme broadcast from Scotland, sometimes known as the Scottish Six. I fail to see how the world viewed from Glasgow, bubbly place though it is, would be anymore acceptable to Shetlanders or Lewismen than the world viewed from London, where incidentally so many Scots already have huge influence over news content. Whatever that means.

Ian Rankin the hugely successful creator of Inspector Rebus who is back in bookshops for his swansong and he's number one I'm told. At the risk of seeing everything through the prism of Scotland's changing politics Ian Rankin thinks Rebus is definitely old Labour. The author himself has yet to be persuaded by the nationalist argument, he said he believes independence for Scotland would make Scots even more chippy.

Robert Crawford once spent two years as director of research for the Scottish National Party. He left school at 15 to work as an apprentice printer, went through night school and day release got the qualifications he needed to go to university, and it paid off - he studied politics at Strathclyde, was a John F Kennedy scholar at Harvard and completed his PhD at Glasgow University. In the noughties he was chief executive of Scottish Enterprise and now works at Glasgow Caledonian University. And that's our panel. [CLAPPING]

And let's have our first question please.

WRAG
Fiona Wrag. Do you think our money is safe in banks and building societies?

MAIR
Robert Crawford.

CRAWFORD
Yes I do, although I think what today and the last few weeks have demonstrated is the increasing integration of the global economy when an event which appears to be relatively divorced from UK or European and global markets - this [indistinct word] lending issue in the United States - creates the tsunami of fear and almost hysteria. Yeah I mean I think your money is safe. The banking system itself is liquid. What the issue - the real fundamental problem is the banks themselves don't know the extent of the exposure they collectively suffer from and that's causing this level of almost distrust between them. I think what is inevitable now is that there will be however a sort of self imposed monetary policy by the banks which will make credit much harder to get, it'll become more expensive and it will have a knock on effect on the housing market and I think over time we'll begin to see - it's probably overdue anyway - a correction of the housing market potentially also causing house prices to fall. But overall yes I do believe your money's safe.

MAIR
And specifically if you were a Northern Rock customer would you be queuing outside or investing more money?

CRAWFORD
I mean it's a good question, I can understand people's sensitivities, especially those who have saved all their life and fear for the future of their savings, but the answer to your question is honestly I would leave it where it is.

MAIR
Alright our question was do you think our money is safe in banks and building societies - Fiona, it was the questioners - let's hear the answer from Ian Rankin.

RANKIN
Well I hope so because that's where my money tends to be is in banks and building societies when it's not down the pub in my pocket. I mean those of us who are of an age when we were taken to the cinema to see Mary Poppins, back in the sixties, know that it takes very little to cause a run on a bank, just a couple of pennies [indistinct words] can be enough to bring a bank to its knees. So of course you know it's a well known truth that when America sneezes the financial markets across the world catch a cold, there is this - as Robert's been saying - there's always a knock on effect. But it's down to confidence, it's down to confidence and of course looking in your newspaper and seeing lines of people outside a bank or a building society waiting for it to open so they can withdraw all their money makes you think well I'd better get mine out quick as well. What it tells me you shouldn't do is put all your eggs in one basket, spread it around a bit and that way you should be at least fairly safe.

MAIR
Magnus Linklater.

LINKLATER
Well I was listening to some of the people in that queue being interviewed before the programme. One of them said I don't believe anything anyone says in the financial market any longer. Now I'm not entirely surprised by that and something that Robert Crawford has just said kind of reinforces that sense of suspicion. He said, I think I'm right in quoting you: Banks don't know any longer the level of exposure that they're subject to. Now if a bank - see if I understand this - doesn't know how far they are exposed then that's not a bank that I would entirely trust. Now the Northern Rock, as I understand it, over the last six months has upped its lending by 50% over the norm and in order to fund this it has been selling, bundling up, these loans and selling them on the market. Now I don't begin to understand that, I hope they do. But that doesn't sound to me like a very sensible thing to be doing at a time when the - we've got this situation in America where people are hopelessly over exposed to loans that cannot be repaid. Now in those circumstances I don't think I would trust Northern Rock, I think I would be in that queue because I wouldn't know where this was going to end.

CRAWFORD
Individual banks clearly do know the extent of their exposure, the uncertainty is the relationship between the banks because they borrow heavily from each other overnight and whereas AN Bank - Another Bank - knows what it - the extent of exposure it's concerned about its opposite numbers - the other banks they're doing business with - that's where the uncertainty is stemming from.

LINKLATER
But I think Northern Rock is, if not unique, is one of the very few banks that does in fact have to make its money this way.

MAIR
Katie Grant.

GRANT
Well I think the whole thing about the banks is that they no longer really care about their customers, they really care about their profits and themselves. [CLAPPING] And I have to say if I banked with the Northern Rock or I had money in the Northern Rock I would be going to get it out because I think your money is vaguely now safer under your bed. And I know that for a lot of people it is absolutely terrifying to feel that what you've worked for, the thing that's supposed to be solid, the thing that you saved for your children and for your old age, has suddenly vanished. So if I was a saver I would certainly be getting out - getting it out of the Northern Rock. But I'm not really surprised because I think over the years the customer has just become the little person that they just don't care about, they don't care whether they lose your custom or they lose - the service is terrible, it's all on line you can't speak to anybody, I mean you'll all know that - you know that is what it's like banking today. So I'm not surprised this has happened but I do hope that people's money is safe because if people do lose money I will feel terribly sorry for them, it's an awful thing to happen. [CLAPPING]

MAIR
Let's take our next question.

JAMESON
David Jameson. What are the benefits of inviting old ladies to tea?

MAIR
Magnus Linklater.

LINKLATER
Well it very much depends if you're Gordon Brown or not. I think - I must say of all the cynical ploys I've seen in recent weeks that really takes the biscuit. And of course for Gordon Brown to invite Mrs Thatcher to - sorry Lady Thatcher - around to tea, there she was wearing, by the wear, not a blue dress but a - I think they call it a cerise dress or fuchsia, they couldn't quite decide which it was, and there she was and of course all that was about was cocking a snoop at the Tory Party. And poor David Cameron, who must have been absolutely grinding his teeth as he saw it happening. But just on a relatively serious note I think it was a great mistake by Gordon Brown, I think just at this moment at the time when trades unions are getting seriously upset about the kind of level of pay that they get, when he really has to try and keep the trades unions on side to invite Lady Thatcher, of all people, to tea I think that was a very, very, very dumb thing to do and I think he may regret it.

MAIR
Katie Grant.

GRANT
Well I think that Gordon Brown had in fact coordinated his tie to go with Lady Thatcher's dress, so there was clearly some sense. I do agree with Magnus, I think it may turn out to be a mistake. I think Gordon Brown is thriving on his honeymoon period and I think sometimes then goes a bit over the top. But what I really wanted to know was what she talked about to the children at tea, I would have given anything to be a fly on the wall to hear what she said. And you know I think they said the conversation was very nice but what can they have spoken about? But I quite like seeing her on the door of Number 10 again. Although I did think it was slightly rude of some of the journalists to shout questions at her, after all she is pretty elderly and anyway she waved and she did it all very well, so I thought it was in fact quite a good day for Lady Thatcher.

MAIR
Gordon Brown has said he wants a government of all the talents.

GRANT
I think there's always a place for old ladies.

MAIR
The question: what are the benefits of inviting old ladies to tea? Robert Crawford.

CRAWFORD
I suppose if you take a magnanimous view of what he did he was simply being courteous and genteel and reaching out to a venerable old lady and so on.

MAIR
But didn't she used to go in the back door when she was seeing Tony Blair?

CRAWFORD
She would certainly go in the back door for Tony Blair. I mean I couldn't help wondering whether or not she found him a more personable afternoon tea companion than his predecessor. But I agree with what's been said already, it was clearly a cynical gesture designed, as most things are, these weeks by Gordon Brown to embarrass David Cameron, which doesn't really need a lot of help, it seems to me. But at one level I think most people's reactions would be pretty much similar to those in this room this evening, we saw it for what it was - it was a cynical gesture and it was really in some ways rather sad actually, he used her I think.

MAIR
Ian Rankin.

RANKIN
Well I wonder if maybe she wasn't also using him. I mean I never thought I would find myself saying these words and certainly not in front of an audience but I am starting to feel sorry for Dave. You know I mean if David Cameron's not getting kicked in the teeth he's getting kicked in the pants and usually both at the same time. And it's an awful thing to see in a young man. I mean what are his prospects if this all falls apart, he has none, it's a shame, he'll go on the scrap heap - queuing outside Northern Rock to get his few shillings out. But I mean Gordon Brown, bless him, has said that he and Mrs Thatcher share something in common - they are conviction politicians, so I look forward to many more conviction politicians of all colours being invited round to Number 10 from the farthest tip of the right to the farthest of the left because most politicians I guess would call themselves conviction politicians. And one or two - if courts around the world get their way - might even end up with a conviction.

MAIR
Well some interesting answers already, what do you think of them? If you want to take part in Any Answers after the Saturday edition of Any Questions here's the phone number to ring: it's 08700 100 444, that's 08700 100 444 or you could e-mail any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Let's have our next question please.

ALLEN
William Allen. Is it realistic to believe that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation?

MAIR
Katie Grant.

GRANT
Well I always think of independent - I'm sorry if you've already read this because I did write this one - but I do think of independence a bit like being like a pair of Manolo Blanik shoes - you know you can't afford them, they're completely unsuitable, they won't keep out the rain and they'll almost bankrupt you. But still have you ever met anybody who really regretted buying a pair of Manolo Blanik shoes because I haven't.

MAIR
Well let's just have a show of hands, no, no, no.

GRANT
Where as the union - well whatever the union is nowadays, because of course that concept has completely changed now that we - what sort of a unionist are you these days, are you a Brown unionist or are you a Wendy Alexander unionist, what sort of unionist are you. But the union itself is a bit like a raincoat - you know you're going to need it, it's a bit dull but you're certainly going to use it and you'll certainly get your money's worth out of it but you don't really want to buy it because it's a bit dull. So I teeter between the Manolo Blanik shoes and sometimes I teeter - well actually it's a complete teetered on a pair of Manolo Blanik shoes because I don't have enough money to buy a pair - that's nothing to do with the Northern Rock. So I sort of swither between the two. I think Scotland might get some confidence out of being an independent nation, I think maybe we would stop being so dependent and this kind of awful dependency culture that's grown up might be shot in the foot if we actually had to stand on our two feet. But in every other way I think the union has served us very well and I don't really see the point of messing it up. [CLAPPING]

MAIR
And tempting though it is to go down the road of if independence were an item of clothing what would it be, we'll stick to the question which is: Is it realistic to believe that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation? Ian Rankin.

RANKIN
Well I hope that Katie is now going to be sent by the makers a pair of those shoes after so many free plugs on the BBC, I'm sure there would be an apology in the post from the Director General. Is it realistic to believe it? Well I mean other countries have done it and they seem to make it work. The SNP have some very good people in the backroom stoking the engine, especially on the economy - they have got some actually very good brains working there, it's just you never get to see them because the front man hogs all the limelight but they're there, they are there. And so - whenever I've managed to discuss it with members of the Scottish National Party some of the ideas have been good ideas. Actually cherry picking the best of what's happened in other small independent nations, for example doing with corporation tax what Ireland did with corporation tax. Whether it can actually work here is another matter and of course we are not Finland, we are not Denmark, we are not Ireland, we're different and nor are we Belgium because I notice now that Belgium might be going the way of two separate states any day now, it looks like they're in complete crisis. But the union has been stumbling and stuttering along almost since its conception. I mean when the union was first mooted the chap responsible - the Duke of Queensbury - was chased through the streets of Edinburgh and had to take refuge in a church because the mob thought that he was a traitor and a turncoat but we got used to it and Scotland's done not too badly out of it. And whenever I think of these things I always think - have I got more in common with my neighbours south of the border than separates us and the answer has always been yes.

MAIR
What made you say [CLAPPING] previously - and I used a quote earlier - that you thought independence for Scotland would make Scots even more chippy?

RANKIN
This was a very - this was a throwaway remark while I was being photographed one day in the middle of Edinburgh at the end of a very long interview and I said one possibility was that we could actually become more chippy, which means - there's a kind of chip on your shoulder. You sometimes find that independence - I mean let's not say independence, let's say nationalism, it's weird to me that when we use the phrase English nationalism we use it in a pejorative way and yet somehow Scottish nationalism's a very good thing. You know you could also as well as having Scottish nationalism being a positive thing there are people attracted to nationalism who have a very negative take on it, they're just basically xenophobic and small minded. And some of that might creep out of the woodwork with independence but hopefully it would be knocked back into the wood again.

MAIR
Right Robert Crawford, Ian Rankin talked about the good people, some of the good people working behind the scenes for the SNP, you used to do that yourself many years ago.

CRAWFORD
Yes indeed and I haven't changed my [indistinct word] and I know a lot more now as a result of what I've been doing since I left than I did then. And in fact if anything my clear sense that we would be much better off has been reinforced in the years since I left working for the SNP. But there are multiple economies in the United Kingdom, one of them London and the South East completely dominates the rest, in a good way - it generates enormous value, it creates an enormous tax base and that is shared across other parts of the United Kingdom. But it distorts the economics of the United Kingdom. I have absolutely no doubt that what's required in Scotland and indeed in regions of England are economic techniques and approaches which are different from those which are imposed on us by the centre. Reference has been made to the use of corporate tax as a competitive weapon to grow the economy. Wherever it's been done elsewhere in Europe, notably, but not exclusively, in Ireland, it has an absolutely dramatic effect on the wealth creation of those countries. The Irish now have a GDP about 125% or rather 25% ahead of where we are at UK level and far ahead of large parts of Scotland - they are a very well off people and they did it inside 15 years. Scotland is rich in intellectual talent and increasingly definitive way of judging the wealth of countries. And if we simply liberated that talent, it we allowed decisions to be made about the Scottish economy for example in Scotland we very quickly come to a sense of the things we could do that would not only make us better off but would also enrich our neighbours across the border. So this isn't a Scottish versus English issue, this isn't a kind of small nationalism issue, this is about a people using its intellectual resources, its physical resources and its experience to benefit itself in ways that other Western European countries have done so brilliantly. It's no coincidence that seven of the top performing economies on the planet are all about the size of Scotland - size isn't the issue, it's the way you use the resources you have at your disposal and it's the mechanisms you use to grow your economy quickly. The Scottish economy has stuttered along about two and half per cent growth, which is fine but it could do much better. And to give context to that and finally that's half the growth currently enjoyed by the peoples of Ireland, just across the water from us, we're as capable of doing what they have achieved in the last 15-20 years. [CLAPPING]

MAIR
Magnus Linklater, did that tickle any of your chromosomes?

LINKLATER
It didn't, not at all, not even slightly. The Irish parallel is completely misleading - they built their economy on the back of massive European subsidies which would simply not be available to Scotland. So I really don't think that that's the point. It's interesting that over the past - I think it's 112, 113 days that Alex Salmond has been in power that it is undoubtedly the case that the entire political climate in Scotland has changed dramatically and you can't take that away from him, he has changed the way we think, the way we look at politics and he's made it a great deal more exciting - Scotland is a much more exciting place to live in. But if you look at the polls - and they're a very good indication - people have still not been convinced, even slightly, by the arguments for independence, they like what Alex Salmond's doing but they have not found anything so far that's changed their view about independence, I think it's round about 25-30% in the polls and it's been stuck there for a very long time. Now he has over the four years has got to convince the Scots that he can govern and he's not going to do that simply by playing games like calling the Scottish Executive a government and introducing all sorts of little measures to make us feel better about ourselves, he's really got to demonstrate that he can in fact grow that economy - make the economy grow and that he can alter that two and half per cent figure. Unless he can do that I don't think he'll take the Scottish people with him and when the next Election comes along I think they will still give the thumbs down to independence and I think they will be right because I haven't yet seen a really convincing argument to demonstrate how Scotland will perform better outside the union than it performs inside the union. It has a very, very good advantage at the moment for being inside the union and it will take a great deal of convincing that it will do better outside it.

MAIR
Robert Crawford have another go.

CRAWFORD
I guess if I spent the next 10 years on Magnus I wouldn't kink in his DNA on this subject. Look ...

LINKLATER
Four years, four years.

CRAWFORD
The Irish example referred to by me applies. The European funds that Magnus mentioned had nothing to do whatsoever with the Irish use of corporation tax to make itself more competitive. The key issue for Scotland is whether or not we believe that the fiscal - the fiscal mechanisms we currently have at our disposal, which is almost zero, are sufficient to make the kind of transformation of our economic growth that I believe we're capable of doing. And the answer to that is no. And so therefore in fact it is true to say that the Scottish government - and it is a good title - that the Scottish government isn't able - will not be able to change that two and half percent figure, precisely because we don't have the mechanisms that a proper government has to make the two and half percent figure a three and half percent or a five percent figure. [CLAPPING]

MAIR
Let's have our next question please.

LEVERLAND
Tom Leverland. We hear the Irish increasing their economy has dramatically increased their carbon footprint, what changes do we need to make now to improve our perceived quality of life at the same time as reducing our carbon footprint?

MAIR
And this was obviously something that David Cameron was talking about at some length this week. Ian Rankin what do you think?

RANKIN
Well you can start by taking all your holidays in Britain, preferably in Scotland, which is something I do with my family. Just throw a dart at a map of the British Isles and just go somewhere you've not been before. All sorts of things we could do. And in fact again I mean I hate to come back to the Scottish National Party but they have had some interesting ideas and they say that Scotland should be self-sufficient in energy from wind and wave, full stop. It's a really windy country and we're surrounded by coastline. It's not a bad place to start because of course what I was asking then was what happens when the oil runs out but that's a question we should all be asking ourselves is what happens when the oil runs out. I mean we've had it good for a wee while. It really frustrates me you know growing up in the sixties, I grew up with the shadow of nuclear atomic war hanging over me or invasion from Russia and then suddenly that all went away and for a few brief minutes, it seemed like, everything was rosy and then suddenly, no, the world's going to hell in a handcart yet again. And you almost get to the stage where you think why bother, you know your cardboard and your paper and your tins and your plastic and you're putting all your vegetables into the dung heap at the back and it only takes one politician to get on a long distance flight to go to a meeting they don't have to go to and that is totally wiped out. [CLAPPING]

MAIR
Katie Grant, how can we improve our perceived quality of life and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time?

GRANT
Well I think our quality would be improved a great deal if politicians didn't keep banging on about it. I tried to download David Cameron's quality of life report today on to my laptop - 549 pages it is - goodness me, I think our quality of life and our carbon footprint would be reduced if it had never been written. I do feel that politicians ...

MAIR
What there's nothing of any merit in it at all?

GRANT
Well I got rather bogged down, when I got to paragraph 2.2.1.3.6 I kind of gave up, I lost the will - I lost the will to live virtually, let alone to read. Anything that takes 549 pages I'm sorry cannot be worth - anything written by a politician - can't possibly be worth reading. [CLAPPING] I would have course - if Ian could stretch out the next Rebus novel, which I hope there will be one, to 549 pages I would be very, very delighted. But I do think that sometimes when politicians lecture us, as indeed we have been lectured and hectored about our carbon footprint, and as Ian says they then go off - go off to all these meetings and they live in this sort of absolute way which we don't live, they have their nice gold plated pensions, they have their drivers and their cars and all this sort of thing, we try to live our ordinary lives. And I think that the suggestion, for example, which was put up that there might be charges for supermarket car parks shows that this report was written by people who have absolutely no idea how the rest of us actually live. I think when rich [CLAPPING] I don't think it really behoves rich people to tell poorer people how very lucky they are to be poor because they're not making such a carbon footprint. I think it does behove though all of us to try and reduce our carbon footprint, if that's what we want to do, by recycling - I hate waste and I hate all that sort of thing. We all know what we have to do, we all know and I don't think that it's helped in anyway by politicians hectoring and lecturing us.

MAIR
Magnus Linklater.

LINKLATER
Well I think I disagreed with every single word that Katie Grant said. I thought - it's quite absurd to say that politicians shouldn't address these issues, good god if politicians are not going to address the issue of climate change what on earth are they there for? They are there to tackle these questions. I haven't actually read from beginning to end, but I have read a summary of David Cameron's proposals and I found I agreed with pretty well everything he was suggesting. Let me just say some of the things that he is proposing. A halt to airport growth - a very, very big thing to say, for a Conservative to say, very, very brave. A tax on those huge big four by four, that Katie probably drives around in. And ...

GRANT
I certainly don't Magnus, I have no four by four - I drive a tiny little car, if I ever drive at all.

LINKLATER
I thought that would get you. Switching off - switching off standby switches on our television. A tax on workplace car parking. What she mentioned about superstore car parking - I actually think that the supermarkets should pay for the parking. But in these pages, which is the result of a lot of research, are some extremely important suggestions which are tough, robust and have to be considered because we can't - I've just been reading again the eminent scientist James Lovelock's book in which he now warns that the timescale for dealing with climate change, which he in his last book thought was between 50 and 150 years, he now reckons has shrunk to 30 to 50 years. We've got 30 - that's within some of our lifetime and are we really just going to sit back and say we're not going to have politicians hectoring about what we need to do because we do it ourselves - we don't and we've got to start. [CLAPPING]

GRANT
First of all, first of all I know everybody will boo but I'm not a climate change sceptic - I absolutely agree that climate change is taking place - but I'm a slight sceptic when we're told that it's suddenly shrunk from 150 to 30 years. I do want to sort of see - I sort of think that this has become a bandwagon where people are always saying that the planet's going to explode and off we go and it's a bit slightly like the Millennium bug - we don't really know, basically we don't really know. I'm not suggesting that suggestions shouldn't be made as to how we might all live better, how we might use resources much better, how we shouldn't waste things and how all sorts of things on the planet are pretty bad. But what I do think is that politicians by their very hectoring and legislation do often put us off, they stop us doing it ourselves because they just want to kind of make us - they sort of seem to want to do it for us. And I think there are very, very many important issues in the planet as we see it - starvation, there's terrible poverty, there are all sorts of things which need addressing. And sometimes I think that politicians use climate change as a way of getting out of talking about the things that are happening absolutely now.

LINKLATER
This bandwagon you talk about contains pretty well every eminent scientist throughout the world, that is a serious bandwagon. The poverty you talk about is mostly brought about by climate change. So I mean [CLAPPING]...

GRANT
I know that poverty may be brought about by climate change but it's also brought about by bad distribution and bad politics in other parts of the world, it's not just climate change.

MAIR
Robert Crawford.

CRAWFORD
Sorry to intrude [indistinct word]. I mean this question actually relates very well to the last question because if there's one thing Scotland is incredibly rich in is an energy production from renewable sources - tidal, wind, biomass and so on. And curiously enough we essentially missed the opportunity a generation ago to build an entire industry around wind turbine and related manufacture, that is now dominated by a near neighbour of ours in Denmark, there's almost no serious Scottish engineering interest in that industry. So not only by applying very sensible renewable energy opportunities, I agree with much of what's been said earlier by Magnus on the subject, we would also seek - we would also help to create within Scotland a series of industries which are environmentally friendly but which are also export based industries and around which we could grow enormous amounts of expertise. So one of the great opportunities, which would also serve the carbon agenda, would play directly towards the development of a growth agenda for the Scottish economy as well. And remembering that we're in danger of being stuck with an advanced nuclear power programme which the country does not want or does not need, although I admit it's carbon friendly it's also expensive and uncertain an outcome. Here is an opportunity to do something with Scotland which would give us a world leading industry again, the way we had say a hundred years ago in shipbuilding and related engineering industries. [CLAPPING]

MAIR
Magnus Linklater.

LINKLATER
Can I just ask Robert if that is the case why is the SNP opposing the biggest wind farm development you've got so far on the island of Lewis? Why did the government turn down a wind farm last week in Alex Salmond's own constituency simply on the grounds that it spoilt the view? What kind of serious approach is that?

CRAWFORD
Well you don't - you don't create the opportunity to build any kind of wind farm, and I live very close to one, which is not intrusive because it's not huge - there are less than 15 turbines I think. The issue is how big the wind farms are going to be and where you're going to locate them and there has to be some degree of sensitivity about the location otherwise they do become intrusive and they become very ugly and in so doing they also ruin the possibility of building other industries such as tourism around them.

LINKLATER
You see I'm sorry I don't think things like being intrusive and being ugly are any - I don't think we have that luxury any longer.

CRAWFORD
We do Magnus we do have that luxury.

MAIR
Thank you for all of that. A reminder of the phone number for Any Answers after the Saturday edition of Any Questions, it's 08700 100 444, that's 08700 100 444. Let's have the next question.

CRANE
John Crane. Should the UK hold a referendum on the question of the continued membership of the EU?

MAIR
Magnus Linklater.

LINKLATER
Well if a referendum was held tomorrow, let's say, it would be defeated wouldn't it and the constitution would be thrown out and I think it would certainly play into the hands of those who would like us out of Europe altogether.

MAIR
Just to be clear though the question was about the continued membership of the EU, something which Sir Menzies Campbell has raised.

LINKLATER
Yes, I mean I think though that one thing leads to the other and you would start a momentum to pull Britain out of the EU altogether. Personally I think that would be a huge mistake, I think we've done enormously well out of Europe. And I think those who actually argue for coming out of Europe have yet to explain precisely what our position would be - where we would stand, who our economic allies would be. I've never heard that properly spelled out. And although people complain about Brussels the fact is that Europe has been an extremely important market to us. It was Mrs Thatcher, her in the cerise dress, who took us into the single market and well done her for doing it. And I think we should stay in it and I don't think a referendum at this moment is going to help this country one little bit.

MAIR
Wouldn't a referendum answer some of the questions you want answered from the other camp?

LINKLATER
Yes if - if the argument was - if a referendum was held and a full scale campaign was launched for Europe it would indeed address that but at this moment I think that's the last thing we need.

MAIR
Alright, Sir Menzies Campbell, just to be clear, said if there's to be a referendum it shouldn't be restricted to a comparatively minor treaty, his party's opposed to that, it must be a decision about the EU as a whole, which I think is the basis of the question. So Robert Crawford what do you think?

CRAWFORD
Well I think Menzies Campbell's formulation of this is hopelessly wrong. I mean I voted as a young man in favour of the continuation of European Union membership in the then Wilson government, if memory serves, held a referendum on the subject to solve a problem within the Labour Party. I don't think the question, as put by Menzies, really has legs. We are in Europe, continuing membership of the European Union is fundamental, vital, to the economic wellbeing of all the peoples in Britain and I think and frankly if there were a referendum on that subject people would realise and vote yes. I think the real issue here is whether or not there should be a referendum on what's going on just now in terms of the treaty. Probably yes I would still vote yes for it because I think there has to be an evolving European model, I think the current arrangements are simply too static to be significant and for the benefit of the European peoples. But to the specific question I don't think there should be a referendum, there won't be a referendum and frankly it's daft at this stage in our development even to be talking in these terms.

MAIR
Katie Grant, the question about a referendum on membership of the EU?

GRANT
I can't decide whether I think Menzies Campbell been frightfully clever here because membership - a referendum on continued membership of the EU I think would be slightly odd. I mean I think we should carry on being a member of the EU but why - I think we should still have a referendum on the constitution. If we're going to go to another political stage then we need to be asked. This is an important piece of legislation, we need to be asked. Europe is already - we feel completely out of Europe, we feel we're never asked anything, we feel we're directed by unelected politicians, I think it is maybe time - and this constitution, which it is a new constitution, gives us an opportunity. But I think it's completely beside the point to start having a referendum on whether we have continued membership of the EU. We want a referendum on the constitution, that's what we want and that's what we should get.

MAIR
Alright, let's hear from Ian Rankin.

RANKIN
Well it's extraordinary this question should come up in a week when so many of the home teams have fantastic results in Europe. Speaking of football. I mean wouldn't it be a disaster if suddenly our teams weren't allowed to play in Europe. [CLAPPING] And just think of the tears - no more Eurovision Song Contest. No I mean I find myself incredibly Eurocentric - the more books I sell in Europe, in European languages, the more Eurocentric I become. And also travelling around Europe, as I sometimes do, with books, to sell in my suitcase. The euro I think's a fantastic thing as well, you know I used to hate having pocketfuls of different currencies, it was very frustrating for you as a business traveller or even as any kind of traveller with pocketfuls of different currencies, you know Belgium francs in here and your French francs in there and it's all different. So no I'm very much in favour of it. But for purely selfish reasons.

MAIR
I think that came across yeah. Thank you for all of that. Let's have our next question.

DAVID JONES
John David Jones. Does the panel agree with me in being extremely concerned in learning that the British Legion has found strong evidence to show that the covenant between the government and the armed forces had been broken?

MAIR
And there's a campaign to that effect. Robert Crawford.

CRAWFORD
There have been very disturbing pieces of evidence in recent weeks about how shabbily our service people are treated before, during and after conflict and by whatever mechanism that needs to be addressed. And I must say until I guess I saw a documentary on the subject about a month or so ago I hadn't realised how bad much of the accommodation these men and women - and the families - are forced to live in. It is shocking. I lived in the United States, in Virginia, beside a very large US military town and my clear recollection of that - and in fact I was talking to my wife just two nights ago - was how good the accommodation was in around it, how good the infrastructure from playgrounds, playing fields. And to see what I saw in that documentary was really quite harrowing. So I'm completely sympathetic to the British Legion's case and I think this is really not a matter that should cause the government much consideration - they need to do something about it quite urgently.

MAIR
Katie Grant. [CLAPPING]

GRANT
Well I mean I quite agree with Robert Crawford and I heard a government minister on I think the Today programme and he sounded so shifty and it was just so shameful that he just couldn't come out and say yes if people join the army or any of the services and they're injured and they need support afterwards that they should certainly get it. How do they expect people ...

MAIR
Don't they get that support though?

GRANT
Well I don't think - well certainly there have been some cases this week which have come out where people have been very, very badly injured and don't get as much as support as someone who suffers from repetitive strain injury in one finger and who's never been in a theatre of war. I think we do all feel, as a country, that people should be looked after and we do feel that somehow this contract has gone and I think we all feel let down because I felt ashamed, I felt quite ashamed. And how can we expect people to join up and go to theatres of war which are incredibly dangerous and we know they are - this isn't just people sort of pottering around on the parade ground for goodness sake. And I did - I just felt ashamed and I felt that I didn't know how much it would cost but whatever it did cost it should surely be found.

MAIR
Magnus Linklater.

LINKLATER
I think the government broke a very important covenant, particularly here in Scotland, when they scrapped the Scottish regiments because that - that covenant is very important when it is between a local regiment and the people in the community from which it comes. And any government owes a duty to its returning soldiers and in history governments have always treated their soldiers coming back very badly indeed. What is so appalling about these examples that we've heard about soldiers being let down - wounded soldiers being poorly treated - appalling housing, it's particularly bad at a time when the army is overstretched - everybody, ministers included, admit that our soldiers are desperately overstretched. Tony Blair said he would give them anything they wanted to fight in Afghanistan, everything they wanted. That is a promise that has been broken because they don't have the backup in Afghanistan that they need and now when they come back wounded having served in theatres like Iraq and Afghanistan they are still short changed and I think that's a disgrace.

MAIR
[CLAPPING] Ian Rankin.

RANKIN
Well one of my sister was married into the Royal Air Force and as a kid I was sent to stay with them for long summer holidays so I can vouch for some of the bad housing that there is around the country and elsewhere. I mean it's not just a problem in Britain, I mean we've seen it before in Hollywood movies where Vietnam vets come back and they're appalled at how badly treated they are and how the society seems to have forgotten them. But this seems to have been dragging on and on and on, I mean ever since we went into Afghanistan with the wrong boots or we couldn't afford proper jackets for the army, it just seems that the armed forces - it's an easy thing to cut money from because we don't really see it and they tend not to complain or in the past they haven't complained too loudly and maybe they just need to complain a bit more because they have got the public on their side, I mean we've seen that tonight, they have got the public on their side. And I think the government does need to do something fast.

MAIR
Let's take our final question please.

SMITH
May Smith. Isn't hiring Saatchi and Saatchi a bit flash for Gordon?

MAIR
The New Labour advertising agency. Katie Grant.

GRANT
Gordon is on a kind of sweep up isn't he, he's like a kind of hoover, anything that's going that's been a success in the past he's just going to hoover in to his campaign. I think he's been - I think he's been very clever because I think that - and the whole idea of flash Gordon, which he knew would be somehow flashed at him he's somehow taken all the heat out of it hasn't he by using that expression and getting it to work for him. He's a consummate politician, he is a great PR man isn't he and that's just what he doesn't want us to think.

MAIR
Robert Crawford.

CRAWFORD
I mean the Labour Party needs all the help they can get and Gordon Brown certainly needs all the help he can get. Whether or not Saatchi and Saatchi or another agency will make much difference to what's going to happen to them in the next Election I really don't know. But for a politician - for a prime minister who came in saying he was going to get rid of spin, that he was going back to politics of substance and so on it did look like a cheap move.

MAIR
Ian Rankin.

RANKIN
I mean Saatchi and Saatchi I know think of them as being sort of traditional and old school, they're a bit like a nice pair of old brown brogues that you're comfortable with. I wish he'd gone for a real cutting edge agency which could have made him that bit more flash.

MAIR
Magnus Linklater.

LINKLATER
I don't think Gordon Brown needs any help. Just look at the way that yesterday morning he was there in Downing Street claiming James McFadden's superb 35 yard shot that won Scotland that tremendous victory over France, claiming it almost as if he'd executed the shot himself.

MAIR
Doesn't that just make him a good politician?

LINKLATER
That's exactly what I mean.

GRANT
...hiring Saatchi and Saatchi was hardly a cheap move, I'm sure they're charging him a great deal of money.

MAIR
Maybe that's what Lady Thatcher was doing on the doorstep, I've just realised. Alright well look thank you very much to our panel here in Dunfermline, we've been guests of Soroptimist International of Dunfermline. Ian Rankin, Robert Crawford, Magnus Linklater and Katie Grant we're grateful to you. A reminder of the phone number which you can call for Any Answers after the Saturday edition of Any Questions, you've heard lots of interesting opinions, what's yours - our number is 08700 100 444, that's 08700 100 444. You can e-mail any.answers@bbc.co.uk, that's any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Next week we're in Barton under Needwood in Staffordshire. On the panel: Margaret Hodge, the minister for Culture, Media and Sport, Sir Christopher Frayling the chairman of the Arts Council for England; Sayeed Varzi, shadow minister for community cohesion and Chris Hulme, Lib Dem environment spokesman. From all of us in Dunfermline thanks for joining us and we'll see you again soon. [CLAPPING
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