Scottish question: it’s advantage ‘yes’ camp

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:25 pm IST

Published - August 26, 2014 11:02 pm IST - LONDON:

With just three weeks left for the crucial referendum that will decide whether Scotland will become an independent country or remain in the United Kingdom, the second public televised debate between the leading spokespersons from the two sides resulted in a clear “win” (according to opinion polls) for Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland from the Scottish National Party.

Shift in public opinion

The pendulum of public opinion has swung the other way from the last debate when Alistair Darling — the former Labour minister who leads the “Better Together” campaign — managed to leave the normally loquacious “Shouty Salmond”, as Mr. Salmond is called by his detractors, at a loss for words.

In a snap poll of 505 voters conducted by The Guardian /ICM after Monday’s debate, Mr. Salmond got a backing of 71 per cent which just 29 per cent backing Mr. Darling.

These numbers pertain to the debate and not the larger question of independence, which will be decided on September 18.

A YouGov survey for The Times conducted on August 18 found that 57 per cent of voters are NO while 43 per cent are YES, and that the gap has been steadily narrowing.

Ill-tempered and frequently shouting and drowning each other out, the opponents clashed on currency, oil revenues, the National Health Service (NHS), and the future of nuclear weapons in Scotland.

Alex Salmond chose to focus on Westminster’s anti-poor policies — the ‘bedroom tax’; cuts in social spending especially on the NHS; and the huge revenues being diverted to “weapons of mass destruction”, all of which, he promised, an independent Scotland would reverse.

The SNP’s current focus on the NHS only emerged after Mr. Salmond’s poor performance in the last debate, alleged Mr. Darling. He accused the SNP of “scaremongering” on the eve of the referendum.

Mr. Darling set his framework firmly around the uncertainties in the SNP’s economic blueprint, and the lack of a Plan B if the U.K. refuses to accept the SNP’s plan for a currency union.

On this point, Mr. Salmond listed other options, like floating a new currency that may or not be pegged to the sterling, or using the pound without agreement. He even threatened to walk away from Scotland’s share of the national debt if the issue was not settled his way.

Mr. Salmond received more than his fair share of cheers from the audience when he taunted Mr. Darling for “defending conservative policies” despite being a Labour member. Mr. Darling, who tried to distance himself from Westminster’s unpopular austerity measures, retorted by saying that he supported neither the Tories nor the SNP.

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