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Brian Taylor's Big Debate - Part One

A Yes Lochaber volunteer's experience of being part of Brian Taylor's Big Debate in Caol Community Centre

It is not often that the BBC comes to Lochaber, particularly not for political programmes. So, it was interesting for some of our Yes Lochaber volunteers to get a taste of Brian Taylor's Big Debate from BBC Radio Scotland. The debate was broadcast live from Caol Community Centre, near Fort William, on Friday September 13th 2013.

This is the first part of our article on the Big Debate, you can read the second part here.

Our first account is provided by Trish Benz.



Having committed myself to work for the YES campaign for the next year to leaflet, support street stalls and attend meetings and marches, I thought that at the old age of 70 it would involve nothing more than dodging dogs and wearing out my new walking boots as I leafleted the Lochaber area.

But then Brian Taylor's Big Debate came to town. Having always enjoyed his Friday mid-morning programme, his balanced way of dealing with the participants and his control over the panel and the audience, plus his own inimitable way of presenting the live discussion I decided to apply for a place. So, there I was on the morning of Friday 13th September sitting in Caol Community Hall, Fort William, waiting for the man himself and wondering/worrying how I was to get the YES campaigner's views over to a wider radio audience.

Brian Taylor in the Scots Parliament
Brian Taylor standing in the Scots Parliament

The panel was introduced to us. Two members of the Scottish Parliament, Christian Allard (SNP) and Rhoda Grant (Labour), Christine Jarden from the Lib Dems and Gerard Blackford, a Highlands and Islands businessman and former SNP treasurer. The format of the programme was that Brian would choose the pre-submitted questions to be put to the panel, with opportunities given to the audience to contribute by giving their own views.

The topics for discussion included: the proposed sell-off of the Royal Mail, the NHS in the Highlands, "The Bedroom Tax" and Anonymity for those charged in cases involving rape. The audience contained locally active members of the YES Campaign, students from Lochaber High School and people who live and work in the wider Highland region. The debate from those on the panel was lively and at times Brian needed to step in to give the audience the opportunity to put across their views. But all people who wanted to speak were given the chance in the hour long programme.

Christian Allard and Gerard Blackford were very positive in their support for the Highlands and Islands and the opportunities to plan and control their own services. Christine Jarden was defensive of the Westminster Government and Rhoda Grant seemed to have differences with her own party's policies. Many of the issues brought forward were related to the Highlands and Islands, our communities and our needs. These included: the lack of GPs and direct contact with the consultants, the need to recruit young professions to live and work in the Highlands, the wider use of technology linking communities and services, praise for the NHS and the need to retain and improve this much valued service.

The level of debate was positive, articulate and included most of the audience. The YES campaigners (Audrey, John, Neil and myself) were taking part on many of the issues discussed. I felt proud that I managed to be the last member of the audience to speak and to think that many of the issues we discussed that day in Caol could be under our own control after September 2014.

To celebrate gaining our independence I plan to walk 500 miles around Lochaber (though with all this leafleting I might reach my target long before then).


This is an archived copy of the Yes Highland website created prior to the referendum in September 2014.

If you are looking for the current website please go to

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