COUNTY NEWS: Scotland dominates debate as Sussex hosts BBC's Question Time

Sussex hosted BBC's Question Time last night '“ but news north of the border dominated debate.

BBC Question Time. Pic: David Lowndes
BBC Question Time. Pic: David Lowndes

The popular current affairs programme opened with questions on a second independence referendum for Scotland, on the day Prime Minister Theresa May said ‘now is not the time’ for the vote.

The panel, comprising the SNP’s Joanna Cherry, Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, Wetherspoon pub chain chairman Tim Martin, columnist Matthew Parris and Labour’s Angela Eagle joined around 200 residents in the audience at Butlin’s, in Bognor Regis.

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One of the audience members, Lynette Mitchell, said: “It was fascinating and not at all as I had expected. It was in Bognor but there was no way we could ask local questions or any other topics other than the top stories of the day.

“We were told to watch the news headlines on BBC and keep questions to those.”

Other topics debated included a lack of economic assessment of a hard Brexit, whether the NHS had to ‘deliver the impossible’ with the resources it was given and whether chancellor Phillip Hammond should resign.

The chancellor came in for criticism after a Budget U-turn on national insurance contributions for the self-employed.

But much of the early debate – and social media reaction – focused on the panel and audience’s views on Scottish independence.

Audience member Len Christmas said: “I did get to voice my opinion that the debate seemed like Scotland was getting away from England, ignoring Wales and Northern Ireland.

“A few of the audience liked my comment about why can’t the English have a vote to get Scotland out of the union.”

Bognor was trending on Twitter after the programme, aired on BBC One, finished.

Scot John Meechan said the audience’s stance to his country made him feel the town was ‘definitely a place I wouldn’t feel welcome in’.

Andrea Clarke, who was in the audience, however, was impressed with the debate.

“I was impressed by the range of the audience and the debate that happened both on and off camera and although the big top was freezing cold it seemed to work well,” she said.

Audience members also praised host, David Dimbleby, for his control of the debate – with MP Joanna Cherry having to be curtailed for speaking too much.

Mrs Mitchell said prior to the show Mr Dimbleby asked whether locals used the suffix ‘Regis’, or simply called their town ‘Bognor’.

“Interestingly the audience was spilt down the middle on this,” she said.

“He then asked if anyone knew of any Bognor jokes, to which one person replied ‘Arun District Council’, which received a loud round of applause.”

Watch the show on BBC iPlayer by clicking here.