Salmond hits back in Scottish referendum debate

Published on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 10:23
Written by Daniel Mason

Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, won a convincing victory over his rival Alistair Darling in last night's debate on the Scottish independence referendum, a poll held immediately after the clash suggested.

The survey by ICM for the Guardian put Salmond ahead by 71% to 29%. It marked a reversal of fortunes since the first TV debate between the two, when Darling - who leads the pro-union Better Together campaign - was widely seen as the winner.

Voters in Scotland will go to the polls on September 18 to answer the yes/no question: should Scotland be an independent country? The first postal votes are being sent out today and tomorrow.

Darling attempted to emulate his success in the first debate by repeatedly questioning Salmond over what currency an independent Scotland if it failed to negotiate a currency union with the UK. But Salmond, the SNP leader, hit back by criticising the former Labour chancellor for campaigning for a no vote on a joint platform with Conservatives.

In an often heated discussion in Glasgow the pair sparred over issues including oil revenues, the NHS, nuclear weapons and poverty - with Salmond appearing more confident and Darling more nervous than in their previous encounter.

Salmond said the eyes of the world were on Scotland. "We are a rich nation, a resourceful people. We can create a prosperous and a fairer society. A real vision for the people of Scotland. This is our time, it's our moment - let us do it now."

He claimed Darling and the no campaign had failed to come up with a positive vision for Scotland. But Darling accused Salmond of "asking us to take his word for it on everything. No plan B for anything. Trust what he says - sorry I can't."

Will Alex Salmond's debate victory be enough to swing the referendum in his favour?
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The debate, screened by the BBC, was split into topics including economy, Scotland at home, Scotland in the world, and what happens after the vote. A section where the two leaders were allowed to cross-examine each other freely descended into a shouting match dominated by Salmond.

Salmond said: "There is far too much, far too much, that is still controlled in Westminster. We couldn't stop the bedroom tax, we couldn't stop illegal wars." He added: "Three weeks on Thursday we can take things back to Scottish hands. Absolutely no one, no one, can run the affairs of Scotland better than the people of Scotland."

Meanwhile Darling was backed by the Labour leader Ed Miliband, who said on Twitter: "Alistair Darling showed once again tonight that Alex Salmond has absolutely no answers on key questions around independence."

The Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, also weighed in, tweeting: "Darling right Salmond refusing to give a straight answer on currency, on oil, on public services - SNP plans don't add up."

The no campaign continues to hold a lead according to recent polls, with one suggesting Scots will reject independence by 57% to 43%, meaning Salmond's victory last night may still not be enough to swing the vote in his favour.

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