The final televised debate before Scotland’s independence referendum on Sept. 18 took place Monday night.
A post-debate poll by The Guardian showed Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and head of the Yes Scotland campaign that supports independence, winning the argument against Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign that opposes independence.
A Twitter poll taken by Sky News also saw Salmond coming out ahead. There were “more than 2,000 retweets for a Salmond win, compared to under 500 claiming Darling had topped the debate,” the news outlet said.
This would be an important victory for Salmond, who was viewed to have lost the first debate on Aug. 5.
The 90-minute debate from Glasgow centered on three key issues, currency, oil reserves in the North Sea, and the future powers of the National Health Service.
During the showdown, Salmond was “visionary, optimistic and generalized,” The Guardian’s Martin Kettle writes, while “Darling was focused, critical and nitty-gritty.”
Darling continued to press Salmond on a “Plan B” if Scotland was not able to share the pound after independence. Salmond has argued that a currency union is possible even though Britain’s finance minister George Osborne has been clear that this will not happen.
“What’s best for Scotland is keeping the pound sterling,” Salmond said during the televised debate.
In response, Darling said a currency union would be bad for Scotland because the country’s “budget would have to be approved not by us, but what would then be a foreign country.” He also noted that “security comes with being a part of a larger country” and that the U.K. was able to weather the 2008 financial collapse, unlike its Irish counterpart, because of the size of its economy.
On the issue of oil reserves in the North Sea, Darling said predictions were historically “too optimistic.” Experts disagree on how much oil is left in the North Sea, but proponents of independence claim that this limited resource will continue to be able to pay for public services like schools, hospitals, and pensions, and support the new policies of an independent government.
“To tell people we can rely on [oil as an asset] is gambling our children’s future,” Darling said.
Darling accused Salmond of resorting to scare-mongering on the topic of national health services. Salmond meanwhile restated his position that NHS would not be privatized in an independent Scotland.
In the closing remarks, there seemed to be some agreement among the political leaders that no matter the result, the future will be about working toward a better Scotland
“This has been the most energizing campaign in Scottish history,” Salmond said. “In the aftermath, there is an obligation to bring Scotland together.”
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