UK & World News

  • 6 August 2014, 12:48

Scottish Referendum: Leaders Clash In TV Debate

The two men leading the fight for Scotland's future have clashed in a lively televised debate on the independence referendum.

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

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

An instant Guardian/ICM poll of viewers conducted immediately after the debate concluded Mr Darling won the debate by 56% to 44%.

But Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told broadcaster STV, which had staged the independence clash: "I definitely think my side won."

The debatewas the first such encounter between the two men.

There were fiery exchanges over Scotland's future prosperity and the prospect of currency union after independence, with Mr Salmond refusing to set out his "Plan B" if Scotland is barred from keeping the pound.

Speaking in front of an occasionally raucous 350-strong audience at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, Mr Darling said: "Any eight-year-old can tell you the flag of a country, the capital of a country and its currency.

"I presume the flag is the saltire, I assume our capital will still be Edinburgh, but you can't tell us what currency we will have."

Mr Salmond told his opponent he was not in favour of joining the euro and added: "We'll keep the pound because it belongs to Scotland as much as to England."

On the EU, Mr Salmond accused the No campaign of trying to scare people into thinking they could be thrown out of the union after independence.

But Mr Darling said it was unclear on what terms Scotland would be allowed to rejoin the EU, or if its membership would be opposed.

Pressed on whether he agreed with David Cameron that an independent Scotland could be successful, Mr Darling said he believed the country could go it alone - but the risks and costs of doing so outweighed the benefits.

In closing statements, Mr Darling said the referendum would be the "single biggest decision" for Scotland, and there would be "no going back" on a Yes vote.

But Mr Salmond insisted: "No-one will ever govern Scotland better than the people who live and work in Scotland ... voting yes is a vote for hope and ambition over fear."

The latest poll from Ipsos MORI shows more people plan to vote to break away from the UK when the referendum takes place next month.

Although a majority of the electorate is expected to vote to stay in the United Kingdom.

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 names to a declaration made earlier this year by their parties' Scottish leaders to guarantee an increase in Scotland's powers under devolution.

Think tank Demos, which looked at how the debate played out on Twitter, said: "It wasn't cheers but boos that filled this new digital arena and our analysis suggests people were turned off for one of the oldest reasons of all - neither politician was keen to answer the question."

:: Watch debate highlights on Sky News, Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freesat 202 and Freeview82, at 11.30am today.

Advertisement