After both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn received a rough ride on Friday in the Question Time leaders election special, tonight it was the turn of Nicola Sturgeon and Tim Farron.
The pair faced questions from a live studio audience in Edinburgh. The location proved problematic for the Liberal Democrat leader who had to fend off questions on why he supported a second EU referendum but not a second Scottish independence referendum.
However, it was Nicola Sturgeon who received the more hostile reception. Although the First Minister put in a confident performance, she was repeatedly quizzed by dissatisfied voters on her party’s poor record on education. One audience member put it particularly bluntly when they said:
‘You said you want to be judged on education so on that basis shouldn’t you resign?’
Sturgeon also struggled on the issue of Scottish independence. She was asked twice to promise that in the event of IndyRef2, the result would be respected for a significant period of time – such as 25 years. However, to audience groans, she refused to rule out a third independence referendum soon after a failed IndyRef2.
Things didn’t get much better when she was asked whether the SNP would be prepared to put an independence referendum on the back burner in order to form a coalition. Sturgeon refused to commit, which prompted a backlash from the audience member:
‘I think you’d losing a lot of votes from SNP supporters by continuing with an independence referendum at this time. Some people just don’t want it, they think it’s not the right time for it because of everything else that’s gone on.’
In response, Sturgeon insisted that she didn’t want an independence referendum now either – but ‘at the end of the process’ of negotiating Brexit (when that would be was unclear). She was noticeably more vague than when she first announced her plans for IndyRef2. The SNP leader did go on to win a few laughs by criticising Theresa May for always changing her mind. But the main takeaway from tonight’s performance is that as things stand Sturgeon’s independence gamble is not paying off.