Tuesday
September 16, 2014

Snap poll shows SNP leader easily won debate

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Scottish nationalists claim victory in final debate

GLASGOW — Scotland’s pro-independence leader Alex Salmond won a crucial final TV debate yesterday, just over three weeks before a historic breakaway referendum, but it wasn’t clear if his combative performance would help him catch up in the polls.

In a bruising debate before the September 18 referendum, Salmond relentlessly talked over and at Alistair Darling, a former Labour chancellor of the Exchequer and the leader of the “Better Together” anti-independence movement, and it was sometimes hard to hear what was being said. With the campaign to break up the United Kingdom and sever Scotland’s 307-year union consistently trailing in opinion polls by an average of up to 14 percentage points, Salmond’s supporters were looking for a game-changing performance after he failed to sparkle in the first such encounter. The 59-year-old did much better this time.

In a snap Guardian/ICM poll released soon afterwards, 71 percent of over 500 respondents judged that Salmond had won, against 29 percent who said they thought Darling had triumphed.

Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, a polling expert, also deemed Salmond had won. But he questioned whether the nationalist leader’s rhetorical victory would translate into a win at the ballot box.

“A debate doesn’t necessarily win you votes,” said Curtice, saying it had been notable for its lack of discussion about wider economic issues.

Salmond got more cheers in Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, than Darling, 60, who attracted the odd groan. But the SNP leader didn’t advance new arguments or land a knock out blow. Instead, over the course of a scrappy hour-and-a-half, he repeatedly interrupted Darling and asked him the same few questions time and time again, a tactic which unsettled the former British finance minister who at times audibly struggled to find a riposte.

“The eyes of the world are indeed focused on Scotland,” Salmond told the audience in an emotional opening statement, urging Scots to vote for full independence. “This is our time, our moment. Let us do it now.”

Salmond came unstuck in the last debate over currency arrangements for an independent Scotland. This time around, he was more confident, but equally vague over the details.

Trusting Salmond and his promises, Darling argued, was too risky.

Herald with AP, Reuters

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