And we’re off! The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, and Scottish Lib Dems leader Willie Rennie are out on stage.
The first question is from an undecided voter. Why should she vote for any of the parties represented?
Nicola Sturgeon: “We need strong voices in Westminster, standing up for Scotland.”
“We need to take a referendum off the table”, says Ruth Davidson.
Scottish Labour’s Kezia Dugdale says the election is a chance to unseat “miserly” Theresa May.
Willie Rennie’s pitch is also against another “divisive referendum”
Bernard Ponsonby asks the leaders why they have fixated on the issue of a second referendum. Willie Rennie challenges Nicola Sturgeon to take it off the table. She fires back that the Lib Dems leader’s position is “ridiculous”, given he wants a rerun of the EU vote.
The First Minister says the people of Scotland should decide on Scotland’s constitutional future, but Ruth Davidson says they already have, in 2014.
FACT CHECK: Kezia Dugdale says Scotland’s NHS is in “crisis”. On A&E waiting times, Ferret Fact Service found Scotland was performing best in the UK.
Willie Rennie is being cross-examined by party leaders. Nicola Sturgeon says the Liberal Democrats are partly responsible for women’s state pension inequality. This was fact checked by BBC’s Reality Check.
FACT CHECK: Nicola Sturgeon is challenged by Kezia Dugdale over in-work poverty in Scotland. We found that in-work poverty had increased under the SNP.
Ruth Davidson under the spotlight now. Nicola Sturgeon immediately criticises her defence of the ‘Rape Clause’.
FACT CHECK: Ruth Davidson says victims don’t have to fill out the ‘Rape Clause’ form. Ferret Fact Service found this to be False.
Now questions are being thrown at Nicola Sturgeon. Kezia Dugdale says people in Scotland are angry with the First Minster over a second referendum.
Willie Rennie says education has suffered under the SNP, and Scotland plummeting down international rankings.
Schools writer and journalist James McEnaney says: “Willie Rennie is correct, although the government would point to improvements in exam passes and what they call “positive destinations.” PISA (and SSLN) data has shown a downward trend in Scottish educational performance, although all of that information must be read in its proper context.
“Firstly, there are problems with the data itself. Dozens of academics have signed an open letter raising concerns about the way the PISA data is collected, presented and acted upon, and Andy Hargreaves and Pasi Sahlberg have said that “in educational and moral terms, the tower of PISA is not only leaning, but in danger of toppling over completely.” There are also issues with the SSLN, such as the fact that the S2 data measures pupils against S3 targets.
“Secondly, ignoring the social, economic and educational context of the data is an enormous mistake, but one that happens far too often.
“Nonetheless, it is true to say that by some measures standards in Scottish education are declining.”
PISA scores on science, reading and maths all show declines for Scotland relative to the UK and the OECD international average.
Education researcher Lucy Hunter-Blackburn says: “Scotland takes part in only one set of international education comparisons, the three-yearly PISA tests which measure attainment at age 15.
“In the most recent of these, undertaken in 2015, Scotland’s performance on all three measures – literacy, numeracy and science – produced a lower ranking within the OECD than in previous years.”
Now an audience member asks about security, in light of the attacks in London and Manchester.
Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale say police capacity is important. The First Minister says the SNP have maintained police numbers in Scotland.
The anti-radicalisation strategy Prevent is brought up by the leaders. A Ferret investigation found there had been just three people in Scotland identified as at risk of being “drawn into terrorism” since 2011.
Policing expert Kath Murray says: “Police support staff numbers have fallen by nearly 40 per cent from 7,862 in March 2010 to 4,801 in February 2017. The problem is that we don’t have adequate workforce data in Scotland.”
“Scottish Government publish trend data on the total number of police officers, while Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority publish snapshot data on officers and staff.
“By contrast, the Home Office statistics include different types of police worker; numbers available for duty; trends over time; numbers of operational frontline, operational support and business support; leavers and joiners; and ethnicity/gender by rank.”
Police officer numbers increased from 2006 until 2010 but have since remained about constant with a slight fall in recent years. Source: Scottish Government
The panel is asked what a “hard Brexit” means to them, and what their plan is on the UK’s exit from the European Union.
After a briefly setting out their policies on access to the single market, Bernard Ponsonby brings things to a close.
And with that… the debate ends.
During the exchanges, Ruth Davidson said care homes are means-tested for residential care in Scotland.
Lucy Hunter Blackburn says: “Local authorities are entitled to charge for the board and lodging costs of residential care.
“These charges are means-tested and take into account a person’s main residence, as well as other assets.
“If you have personal capital assessable assets (and ½ of any jointly held assessiale assets) exceeding £26,250 (2016/17), including your house you have to pay for all of your accommodation costs, although there are mechanisms for deferring the collection of these costs.”