Currency a flashpoint in TV debate on Scotland's future
By Honor Mahony
Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond faced repeated calls during a key TV debate on Tuesday evening (5 August) to be clear about what currency an independent Scotland would use.
The issue was a flashpoint during a fierce two hour debate between Salmon and Alastair Darling, the leader of the pro union Better Together campaign, with just six weeks to go until a referendum on whether to remain in the 307-year-old union between London and Edinburgh.
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An opinion poll published just before the debate started said 40 percent of Scots will definitely vote Yes to independence, 54 percent will say No, while the rest are undecided.
The pro-independence side, who have a confident orator in Salmond, had hoped the debate would deliver a strong positive message for their camp, but Darling, not known for his public speaking skills, delivered more punches than expected.
A former finance minister, he pressed Salmon to spell out a 'Plan B' should the rest of the UK reject his plans to continue using the pound after independence.
While Salmond gave no clear answer on this, Darling repeatedly dodged the question of whether Scotland could be a successful independent country.
For the most part, Salmond appealed to the emotions saying that being independent would allow Scotland to build a fairer society and said the Better Together campaign was based on fear.
He said UK parties' rejection of currency union was "not a serious proposition. It's designed to scare the people of Scotland."
"No one will do a better job of running Scotland than the people who live and work in Scotland," he said.
“In the European Union, no fewer than 12 of the 28 member countries are the same size or smaller than Scotland, and few if any of these countries possess the natural and human resources that Scotland is blessed with.”
Darling focussed on what he said were "legitimate" questions noting that people should be able to identify the "flag, the capital and the currency".
"It is not our patriotism at stake but rather the future of our country," said Darling.
"If we decide to leave, there is no going back. We can have the best of both worlds with a strong parliament," he said adding that the decision cannot be made on the "basis of guesswork".
Many of the audience's questions focussed on hard issues such as economic welfare, currency and pensions.
A snap poll of viewers for the Guardian newspaper showed Salmond had lost the debate but the two politicians are due to meet once more in three week's time.
The pro-independence camp has focussed on the argument that Scottish society would be better off and fairer if it had full self-governance while the No camp has said jobs risk being lost, the currency question is unclear as is future EU membership.
The 18 September poll is being keenly watched around Europe, particularly in Catalonia which plans an independence referendum on 9 November.