Put on the spot

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SOME 17-year-olds would find it intimidating to pit their wits against the area’s top politicians.

Not Williamwood’s S6 pupil Fraser McGowan, who joined a panel which included Ken Macintosh, Stewart Maxwell and Jackson Carlaw in the school’s annual question time event.

The youngster — who is set to go to Glasgow university to study politics in September — went toe to toe with the public figures on issues ranging from voting systems to the situation in Libya.

Although not as eventful as last year, when fiery left-winger Tommy Sheridan was a panellist, this year had its share of controversy.

With Mr Sheridan otherwise engaged, this time, Scottish News of the World editor Bob Bird joined the panel and was probed by the pupil-filled audience on the issue of phone hacking.

Mr McGowan was particularly opinionated on that matter, issuing a rallying cry that “newspapers are out of control and need regulation” which was met with rapturous applause by his classmates.

There was no love lost between the Labour and Tory men, who clashed on a number of matters, including the voting system and tuition fee’s.

Things got personal when Mr Carlaw blamed public reluctance to intervene on international affairs on Tony Blair’s policy on Iraq, and then criticised Mr Macintosh’s colleague Jim Murphy for hypocrisy on tuition fee’s.

Labour’s Macintosh got his own back when, on the issue of phone hacking, he laid blame at the door of former News of the World editor and Conservative spin doctor Andy Coulson, a point which Mr Carlaw believed would “be of interest to Mr Coulson’s lawyers”.

When it came to minimum pricing of alcohol, Messrs Carlaw and Macintosh made unlikely bedfellows, joining forces to criticise the policy favoured by SNP’s Stewart Maxwell.

However, it was Mr Maxwell and Mr Macintosh who were teaming up again against Mr Carlaw when it came to the voting system, with both arguing that proportional representation was the way forward.

Principal of Langside College Graeme Hyslop was also on the panel, speaking emotively on tuition fees, when he argued for “free education for all to get the country kicking again”.

After the event, SNP’s Stewart Maxwell was fulsome in his praise for the pupils and their “wide range of intelligent questions”.

“The press distorts the reality of the youth of today.

“The pupils — especially our youngest panellist Fraser who was outstanding — showed that they are an engaged, passionate and not apathetic in the slightest”.