In a turn around of previous fortunes, pro-independence Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond won tonight’s debate on the Scottish referendum. With just 23 days until Scotland goes to the polls, the result could have a startling impact on the end result.
Former UK Chancellor Alistair Darling was taken to task Glaswegian style in the opulent surroundings Kelvingrove Art Gallery, falling apart by foolishly admitting an independent Scotland could keep the pound.
Officially the debate was split into four parts: the economy, Scotland at home, Scotland abroad and what happens next. But in reality this was a debate about what currency Scotland would use, with a few extra bits thrown in for good measure.
At the start it looked like Darling might win by throwing mud on Salmond’s ‘Plan B’ if the United Kingdom government refused to allow a full currency union. Anyone watching would think this was a rerun of the last debate in which Salmond struggled to answer the question, and he certainly fell flat when he attempted to suggest that he had come up with “three Plan B’s for the price of one”.
But as the mammoth 90-minute debate went on Salmond strengthened and pushed Darling to admit that an independent Scotland could use the pound without the permission of what was left of the UK government. This was a horrendous gaffe by Darling that is now likely to fill headlines for days.
Darling said: “of course we can use the pound, we could use the rouble, we could use the dollar, we could use the Yen…” It was a generic comment and no change in policy from Darling but it cost him the debate. It also led the Scottish National Party to tweet this:
— The SNP (@theSNP) August 25, 2014
The irony of this admission was that Salmond had hoped to focus the debate on the NHS, claiming a vote to remain in the UK was a vote for the unpopular Conservative government. Scotland regularly elects almost no Conservatives but has spent most of its history under Tory government as a result of there being far more voters in England.
But it was not threats of the bedroom tax, NHS cuts or the child poverty that was the killer blow to Darling’s case. Losing the argument on currency was such a nightmare because the economy is likely to have a major impact on how Scotland votes.
Most floating voters are unsure about independence because of concerns about the economy and the currency. Anything that pushes them either way could swing the result on the day.
On North Sea Oil, Darling claimed that public services would be at risk due to the volatility of oil prices coupled with the fact that Scotland would rely on it to the tune of 15 percent of its governmental budget. Salmond replied that Norway relied on oil for 20 percent of its budget, and was still a highly successful country. This also proved to be a bit of a side show.
This was the second main debate of the referendum campaign, which will culminate when Scotland goes to the polls on 18th September. The current polls suggest the country will vote to remain in the United Kingdom, the latest figures are: Yes 39 percent, No 51 percent, with 11 perent still undecided 11. Last minute undecided voters could swing the result as the turnout is expected to be as high as 80 percent.
Postal votes go out tomorrow and one in six voters are registered, meaning tonights result could be huge. The first debate was held on the 5th August and was covered by Breitbart London here.
A poll for the Guardian and ICM called the debate: Salmond – 71 percent, Darling – 29 percent.