With the independence referendum still seven months away, and with the Yes and No campaigns beginning to ramp up their rhetoric, it’s often a challenge to discern what are seen as the key issues by the general public.

The currency? EU Membership? An Anglo-Scot border?

BBC Scotland is hosting a series of monthly televised debates allowing members of the public the chance to put their questions to members of all the Scottish political parties.

Full story available on BBC Online

But I wanted to gauge which of the issues discussed in these debates draw the biggest reactions on Twitter — arguably the pulse of public opinion.

So I created the interactive timeline tool below for BBC Scotland to illustrate which of the talking points drew scorn or support in the ‘Twittersphere’.

To do so I (a) created a feed of tweets using Python, Tweepy, and Twitter’s Streaming API and (b) HTML, CSS, and the JavaScript libraries D3 and Crossfilter.

Predictably the volume of tweets increased exponentially as the 60 minute debate progressed – no doubt bolstered by viewers switching channels following the final whistle of the Manchester City and Barcelona game.

BBC Scotland’s Twitter timeline shows there were three distinct surges on the night of the second debate in Kelso.

The largest of these was at 21:52 with a peak of 49 tweets as the discussion on whether higher taxes were needed for improvements in welfare came to a head.

There were two smaller surges at 21:20 (19 tweets) and 21:42 (27 tweets) surrounding the issues of Scotland’s future currency and welfare system.