Tuesday evening a debate in Glasgow, Scotland, between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling over the issue of Scottish independence became quite heated as each attempted to persuade voters of their views. On September 18 voters will decide what has been a continual source of disagreement for two and one-half years. Various polls show those supporting independence are between 40-42 percent, those against from 46-54 percent, and the undecided from 7-14 percent.
Alistair Darling,head of the Better Together campaign, maintains that the United Kingdom has been a trusted kingdom for 300 years and the present uneasy world is not the time for nationalism. Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, campaigned for an independent Scotland. Everyone who watched the debate agrees it was “feisty stuff,” with some very lively exchanges.
Salmond began by visualizing Scotland as independent and successful. He said he is tired of being governed by parties they did not elect and declares no one will do a better job of running Scotland than the Scottish people.
Darling popped right back, pointing out that he did not elect Salmond. He agreed that they all want Scotland to prosper, but felt the way to do it is to use the strength of the UK. He stressed they should not make the decision on “blind faith, guesswork, and crossed fingers.”
Salmond maintains Scotland is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but asserted that for the last 35 years the country has paid eight billion pounds more into the treasury than they have received back. He quoted British Prime Minister David Cameron, stating Scotland could be a successful, independent country. He tried several times to force Darling to say whether he agreed. Darling kept avoiding that question and instead kept pushing Salmond for an answer to a question of his own, “What is Plan B?”
Westminster parties have said if Scotland walks away, it cannot use the pound sterling. Darling insisted people were “desperate” to know what the currency would be. Salmond declares Scotland will use the pound anyway, saying the pound is as much Scotland’s as it is England’s and he wanted what was best for Scotland. Darling countered that they would not have a central bank, which they would have to have behind it. Salmond shot back that Darling could not address finances since he was the one who bailed out the banks.
Darling pointed out that Scotland would have to reapply to the EU and any one of the 28 countries could vote against their joining. He added, “The one thing you cannot accuse the EU of is acting with speed.”
There was no debate that even an independent Scotland should stay in the EU. They both concurred that tuition fees and prescriptions should continue to be covered. However, Salmond hammered home that Scotland must control their own finances. He wants to stop the waste of funds on nuclear weapons and instead address the queues at the food banks, declaring they must end austerity.
Salmond brought up what he called Project Fear, having to drive on the wrong side of the road and having their pandas removed from the Edinburg zoo. Darling replied that this was a joke. However, he said he does feel that independence carried too many risks, saying if they vote to leave there is no going back.
Salmond choose ambition over fear, insisting they must control their own finances. As he said, “This is our moment – let’s take it!” Viewers were encouraged to tweet at @Scotlanddecides and the tweets were coming in at the rate of thousands every minute. The consensus was that nothing new was really said, and what people really want addressed is the currency and the economy. It is uncertain whether Scotland’s debate over independence convinced anyone.
By Laurie Stilwell