We Need a New Enlightenment; MP'S CALL OVER INDY DEBATE 'POISON' Mud-Slinging, Death Threats and Internet Insults Have Marred Both Sides of the Campaign over Scotand's Future. DOUGLAS ALEXANDER Believes Our Great Thinkers from History Will Be Turning in Their Graves INSPIRATION FROM PAST

Article excerpt

Byline: David Clegg d.clegg@dailyrecord.co.uk

Burns The Scots bard is celebrated world-wide Hume One of the key figures in Western philosophy Hutton Known as the Father of modern geology Smith Philosopher and pioneer of political economy THE independence debate has deteriorated into "hate-filled outpourings", according to Douglas Alexander.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary is calling for a respectful and thoughtful discussion about the country's future.

And he says both sides of the debate should take inspiration from the great thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment.

In a lecture tonight, Alexander will speak out against the "systematic denigration of fellow Scots" blighting the constitutional campaign.

His remarks follow widespread concern about the tone of the independence debate following examples of Scots suffering vile internet abuse for simply daring to voice an opinion.

Glaswegian comedian Susan Calman was reduced to tears after being targeted on Twitter for remarks she made on the BBC Radio 4 News Quiz this week.

Abuse has also been hurled at journalists and public figures, while politicians have been trading increasingly nasty insults.

Giving the Judith Hart memorial lecture in Lanarkshire tonight, Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP Alexander will say the time has come for the debate to get out of the gutter.

He will say: "All of us here in Scotland - whatever our party affiliations and whatever our views on the referendum - should condemn unequivocally statements and actions that poison the well of public debate and demand a different and better conversation ahead of Scotland's choice.

"It seems to me the real debate we need is not who we are, but how we are - not a divisive and bitter battle for standing, but a respectful offering of differing visions for the future of our nation.

" We need vision, not viciousness, as we make our choice.

"If we are to discuss a new vision for an old nation, then to my mind, it is the essence of that vision and what has to be done together to achieve it that must be to the fore in such discussion."

Alexander will look to the example of Enlightenment figures like David Hume for an intellectual and rational approach to the debate.

He will add: "With just over a year to go until the referendum, the prospect of independence has not produced a single major theoretical work of note.

"Instead, despite the handsome and historic victory of the SNP in 2011, too often the advocates of independence seem to have satisfied themselves with decrying their opponents.

"This week, we saw the SNP's Angus Robertson attempt to belittle the campaign against independence by branding people who opposed separation as having the view that 'people in Scotland are uniquely poor, stupid and incapable of governing themselves'.

"As a supporter of the Better Together campaign, I find this characterisation not just inaccurate, but crass and offensive. …