Derek Bateman's verdict was : "If there's been a worse 'debate' anywhere, I missed it." To which the obvious response is : "You missed the one with Anas Sarwar, then?"
Of course it was dreadful, but it was hard not to sigh in despair when STV's Bernard Ponsonby of all people made a sanctimonious comment about "learning nothing from that". These debates are the way they are because of the format that STV have consciously chosen. The one with Sarwar was lambasted by one and all as a totally pointless exercise in which the only winner was indecipherable noise (hilariously punctuated with the odd random intelligible word from Sarwar such as "PANDAS!"), and yet STV clearly reflected on what happened that night and decided it was exactly what they wanted. They're not interested in a sober format that helps to inform undecided voters, but in a bear-pit that excites political anoraks and creates the biggest possible social media buzz.
When the debate has effectively been destroyed (as it was both last night and in the one featuring Sarwar), by definition there isn't going to be a "knock-out winner", only someone who won on points. Nicola Sturgeon was undoubtedly that winner, and although Ponsonby and his fellow pundit Colin Mackay did seem to just about concede that, I found the grudging nature of their verdict incomprehensible. Yes, Lamont may have held her own in terms of demeanour, but don't we (at least occasionally) have to assess the actual content of what someone says? Lamont's arguments were the stuff of the playground - how often did she say something like "but that's not your reason for wanting independence, you wanted independence BEFORE that". Which basically translates as "that can't be your reason because you've got OTHER reasons as well". Yes, Johann, most of us want independence for at least two reasons. Some of us have more than five. Crazy but true.
Probably the most satisfying moment of the night was when Lamont moronically suggested that the abolition of Trident wasn't Sturgeon's reason for wanting independence (yup, you've guessed it, because she wanted independence BEFORE that), and Sturgeon pointed out that she had joined CND before the SNP. Lamont was momentarily struck dumb, before pathetically trying to rescue the situation by asking Sturgeon what her point was.
And I'm sorry, but how can anyone say that Lamont debated well when she waffled endlessly about extremely vague potential methods by which Trident can be got rid of without independence, and then failed to answer a direct question about whether she even wants to get rid of Trident or not? It was Alice Through the Looking Glass stuff.
The classic line of the night that will echo down the ages was of course Lamont's mind-boggling "Scots are not genetically programmed to make decisions". I presume what she meant (although I probably shouldn't be trying to get her off the hook here) is that Scots are not the only people capable of making decisions - from which we're supposed to conclude that it therefore doesn't matter who makes our decisions for us, or what those decisions are. Decisions are decisions! I can see how that might look like a fabulous point to a Primary 2 audience, but surely Ponsonby ought to have been raising at least one eyebrow?
It doesn't matter whether Holyrood or Westminster makes the decisions, you "still have to make the case" against things like the Bedroom Tax, Lamont tells us. Well yes, of course you do. It's just that it's a hell of a lot easier to make that case in a parliament that is 80% composed of opponents of the Bedroom Tax than it is in a parliament that is 60% composed of supporters of the Bedroom Tax. Does Johann think Scotland would be in more danger of ending up with capital punishment being put back on the statute book if we were in political union with Texas than if we were in political union with Sweden? "It doesn't matter, you still have to make the case against it!" Jesus, give me strength.
Ponsonby and Mackay may think that Sturgeon only came out on top narrowly, but for those of us who inhabit the real world and are willing to form a judgement on the content of what was actually said, I think it was more like this -
Nicola Sturgeon (pro-independence) 7/10
Johann Lamont (anti-independence) 4/10
And Sturgeon is only as low as 7 because it was literally impossible for her to make her points at times due to the wall of noise - I'm struggling to see how anyone could have done any better in the circumstances. The debates will only improve in quality when STV start placing their public service commitments ahead of their viewing figures.
Final thought : when Johann Lamont repeatedly asked Sturgeon if she was capable of taking "no" for an answer on the currency union, it occurred to me that this was as much a squeal of pain as it was an attack line. The No campaign evidently thought that their opponents would be rattled by the coordinated announcement on the currency, but the calmness with which the Scottish government have stuck to their original stance (while taking no hit whatever in the opinion polls) has led to a few heads being scratched over at McDougall Central. I still think that the SNP will eventually have to flesh out the most likely alternative to a formal currency union, but on reflection I think they've been entirely right to take their sweet old time about it.