Financial News

  • 6 August 2014, 6:32

Scotland's Future Up For Debate In TV Contest

The two men leading the fight for Scotland's future have gone head to head in a televised debate.

First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond faced Alistair Darling MP, leader of the Better Together campaign, with just over six weeks to go until the September 18 referendum on independence.

The pair clashed over issues from whether an independent would keep the pound and remain a member of the European Union, to the economy and the future of North Sea oil revenues.

Broadcast by STV - which faced complaints from viewers around the UK who had problems viewing an online live stream - it was the first such encounter between the pair during the campaign and kicks off its closing stages.

As the debate got under way a new Ipsos MORI poll for STV News suggested a four point rise in support for independence (40%) since June, while an unchanged 54% of those "certain to vote" said they would back the No campaign.

Alex Salmond had initially refused to face Mr Darling, instead insisting he would only take on David Cameron. The Prime Minister has consistently refused the offer.

Tonight's two-hour debate took place at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow and the men cross-examined each other, as well as taking questions from an occasionally raucous audience.

Alistair Darling's Better Together campaign has consistently been ahead in the polls and he pressed the First Minister for answers on independence - repeatedly demanding to know if he had a "Plan B" if an independent Scotland is barred from using the pound.

Blair McDougall, his campaign director, said: "Voters in Scotland have been listening to the independence debate for over two years now.

"Surely if Alex Salmond had convincing answers on the details of separation, we would have heard them by now."

For Alex Salmond, the TV debate and similar events that are expected to follow present an opportunity to strive for the game-changing moment that his campaign needs to turn the polls around.

Blair Jenkins, chief executive of the Yes campaign, said: "We know that Scotland is one of the richest countries in the world, wealthier than the UK, France and Japan, and only the powers offered by a Yes vote will enable us to make this wealth work better for everyone in Scotland.

"We also believe that the No campaign have a problem with both the negativity of their message and the unpopularity of their messengers."

On the morning of the debate, the three main UK party leaders announced they had signed a pledge to increase the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg all put their name to a declaration made earlier this year by their parties' Scottish leaders to guarantee an increase in Scotland's powers under devolution.

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