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Alex Salmond took a beating last night. And his supporters know it.

6 August 2014

11:36 AM

6 August 2014

11:36 AM

How about those twin imposters, triumph and defeat disaster? The reaction to last night’s debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling reveals as much as anything that happened in the debate itself. And the story it tells is that Darling won a handsome victory.

His performance was far from faultless. I don’t understand why he was so evidently discomfited by the idea of agreeing with David Cameron that Scotland could survive quite comfortably as an independent country. Nor was I impressed by his response to the question of what greater powers might be devolved to Scotland after a No vote. Mentioning road tax was a blunder.

But at least he did not talk about aliens.

At least Darling did not made a chump of himself in that fashion. For all that he received a terrible beating on questions about the currency and economic policy, Salmond’s greatest error came when he was given the change to cross-examine Darling and chose to use it to mock some Unionist hyperbole much of which, as Darling noted, ought not to be taken too seriously. By doing so, Salmond made himself look small. Worse, he made independence seem small.

If he recovered somewhat in the latter stages that recovery was both too little and too late to salvage the evening for the First Minister. He lost the rounds that dominated the debate.

Whining that “it’s our pound too” isn’t quite good enough. Perhaps a currency union could be agreed after independence but, as Darling pointed out, it would come with significant strings attached that would inevitably constrain the actual independence of an independent Scotland. To this Salmond had no good answer, largely because – however inconveniently – the facts and balance of probabilities are each against him.

Darling also  – and quite deliberately, I think – took aim at Salmond’s character. He all but asked if you would really be happy to buy a used car from this guy. What’s under the bonnet? All Salmond had was “a good line but not a convincing answer”. And when Darling said “I want you to do something difficult, I want you to contemplate the possibility you might be wrong” he made Salmond’s ineffable self-confidence seem a weakness, not a strength.


Of course the independence debate isn’t really about Salmond but Darling did his best to make it seem so knowing full well that the First Minister is a polarising figure. Discredit Salmond and you can discredit his cause too.

So it was good, hard stuff. Darling didn’t much care about seeming likeable. He was prepared – or acted as though he was so prepared – to risk appearing overly aggressive if that was what it took to bloody Salmond’s nose. The badger was transformed into a wolverine.

And, look, the Nats know they took a beating last night. It may not change many people’s minds but that’s a different matter. Pro-Yes journalists admitted it was a “bad night” for Salmond. Yes spinners were reduced to saying, hey, at least we got our arguments across. It really was that bad.

It’s been thin gruel for nationalists today. You can tell this from their silence (in many cases) or from the desperation of their tweeting (in some others).

Here’s Nicola Sturgeon, for instance tweeting that: THE key point from debate – ICM says that FM won big with undecided voters – 74% to 26% of those still undecided post debate.

Oh really? Yes, actually. But it turns out that this is based on a sample of just 22 voters (weighted to be 31 people). It is not statistically significant or credible. But this is the sturdiest straw at which the Nats clutch today.

The other Unicorn, again according to the Deputy First Minister, is that ICM’s snap poll shows the Yes vote increasing by 4% to 47%. Well, sure. Inconveniently, however, ICM say “this sample was pre-recruited on the basis of watching the debate and being willing to answer questions on it immediately after the debate ended. While we have ‘forced’ it via weighting to be representative of all Scots, it SHOULD NOT be seen as a normal vote intention poll as it is premised on a different population type i.e the profile and nature of Scots who watched the debate is different to a fully nationally representative sample of Scots.”

Also: it’s a poll of 500 people. Its margin of error is unavoidably greater than is usually the case in such things.

How much these debates change minds is a reasonable question to ask. For what it is worth, before the debate started ICM’s unweighted sample reported 180 Yes voters, 206 No voters and 49 people who did not know how they would vote. After the debate they found 189 Yes voters, 224 No voters and 22 don’t knows. 27 don’t knows shifted during the debate and 18 of them went to No while only 9 travelled to Yes.

With all the proper caveats about an unrepresentative sample and all the rest of it there is simply no credible way of spinning these numbers as being good for the Yes campaign. Indeed there is something desperate (if plucky!) about the attempt to do so.

Of course, your voting intention before the debate was the best predictor of whether you thought Darling or Salmond won this arm-wrestle. Most Yes voters thought Salmond won and most No voters thought Darling won. Even so, Yes voters were much more likely to concede that Darling won than No voters were to reckon Salmond had the best of the exchanges.

Still, the best news for Salmond is that he will probably win the next debate (presumed to be on the BBC later this month). Partly because expectations for him will have been lowered and partly because few people will expect Salmond to perform so poorly again or Darling so well. This, inevitably, will inform or colour people’s judgement.

I still don’t think the debate will have changed many minds but, look, if Salmond had thumped Darling you can be sure Yes voters would be shouting about the game-changing importance of last night’s events. But he didn’t and they aren’t. Which tells you all you need to know, really.

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Show comments
  • sepide
  • Dean Jackson

    The concept of Union has always meant security from outside invasion. What else would bring two diverse cultures together, the Celts of Scotland and the Anglo-Saxon Normans of England? And the threat of foreign invasion is more subtle today, even unseen, because the enemy is weak in numbers, hence the enemy’s need to conceal its identity. Who is this enemy that threatens Britain?

    The enemy is within and without, and are Marxists who’ve co-opted the political parties of the West, including the West’s leading institutions, from the media to religion. We know this to be true not only because we were warned of the enemy within by KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn in 1962, but because the West’s institutions failed to warn its populations that the collapse of the USSR (and East Bloc nations) was a strategic disinformation operation, as proved by the West’s failure to not only verify the collapse, but de-Communize the Soviet Armed Forces officer corps (which was 90% Communist Party officered in late 1991), and failure to de-mobilize the six-million vigilantes that assisted the Soviet Ministry of Interior and militia to control the populations in the larger Soviet cities.

    The West’s fate depended on verification of the collapse of the USSR, verification’s absence proving co-option of the West’s institutions. On the Soviet side, there could be no collapse when (1) the Soviet Armed Forces officer corps remained Communist Party dominated; and (2) six-million vigilantes continued to control the population.

    In order for Scotland to decide on Union or independence, Scots must be armed with all the information that’s necessary to make the correct decision. The co-opted media will not present the facts as laid out above.

  • peepoday

    People wont risk their standard of living by voting for the unknown,SNP quickly need to answer questions on the economy.

  • Alan

    With respect, who in their right mind would regard Alex Massie as being fair and objective about how Alex Salmond did?

  • allymax bruce

    “Osborne and his accomplice Alistair Darling might seem an improbable double act” (Alex Massie).
    Labour & Tories are now a ‘double act’, that ALL Scots can’t countenance, Alex!

    A wee bit glee n’ gloating in your ‘article’, Alex; and you’re finally
    off the fence; you want all Scots & Scotland to suffer under
    Westminster rule, while you get a wee pat on the head from your
    Westminster ‘hammers’!

  • bernician

    it was amazing, especially considering how apparently loaded with yes side people the audience seemed to be at first.

  • allymax bruce

    Dear Alex Massie, I seen your incoherent ramblings of an interview on tv ; what a shambles, man. It reminded me of Doom Darling attacking everything & everything FM said, just to interrupt FM speaking; this ‘article’ of yours is more of the same inane incoherent babbled ramblings. And you a ‘professional ‘writer’! Check out your comment; only a few ‘on-topic’; that’s what bad ‘writing’ does, man.

    • HJ777

      You object to him muscling in on your speciality of incoherent ramblings, do you?

    • Wessex Man

      Oh dear, oh dear, darling of all people hammered the FC and you believe that the FC is going to carry you over the line into some sort of Utopia in September still, keeps you out of mischief.

      • allymax bruce

        I Trust & Believe in Scotland’s First Minister Alex’ Salmond; he’s
        done an excellent job for Scotland. He’s the only genuine National
        Leader Scotland has had in 500 hundred years. He doesn’t sell Scots
        & Scotland out ot Westminster!

  • Iain Inkster

    Oh but the debate IS very logically about Salmond. It’s about whether you want to live inside Salmond’s creation (for he and his milieu to be the architects of a new state). This should distress the constitutionalist, that Salmond is so unconcerned about about constitution.

  • gordonehil

    While talking about ‘paying down the debt’, David Cameron has hiked it by 700 billion. He has doubled the debt bequeathed by Labour, though the media have been careful to ensure that the public knows nothing. The 700 billion has been squandered on things like Iain Duncan Smith’s universal credit software system, which has so far cost £230,000 per claimant [sic]. Clearly ‘paying down the debt’ is the least of Cameron’s concerns. Quite the opposite. Money Week is, correctly, predicting a massive fiscal crisis after the election. Whatever the party in power, it is inevitable that the welfare state is finished, and the Scots can whistle for their oil. It is rumoured that a huge new field has been found off the Shetland Islands. The Scottish sheep can say goodbye to all that as they bleat their way into the booths to vote for ‘Better Together’. The collapse of the UK Treasury will be a triumph for Conservative policy and Conservative backers as the welfare state is packed away, and Scottish oil is lost for ever. Nobody can say the Scots don’t deserve it. After all, sheep are for sheering.

  • Open Mind

    Here is a diagram of poll result I found searching internet, can someone explain it to lay persons?

  • Andrew Bott

    Please sign this open letter to Scotland

  • nogginthenog

    Surely the reason Darling refused to agree with Cameron’s position on Scotland’s success if it separated is very simple and obvious: Salmond’s whole strategy has been to recruit Labour voters, indeed to replace Labour as the ‘natural’ party of government in Scotland. Hence Salmond would seize any chance to beat Darling with the accusation that he is in cahoots with the Tories, just as he (Salmond) constantly deploys the bogus argument that a vote for anyone except the SNP is a vote to have Scotland governed by Westminster Tories, or ‘people Scotland didn’t vote for’ as he often puts it.

    For the same reasons one of Darling’s best hits last night was to point at Salmond and say ‘ I didn’t vote for him but I have to put up with him; that’s just the way democracy works’.

    • Jambo25

      But Darling and the rest of his party are in cahoots with the Tories. They are part of the great British political/economic consensus

  • roger

    Could someone from the Yes camp please help me.
    Alex Salmond resents Scotland being governed by non Scottish MPs from Westminster. An honourable position to take.
    However he is adamant that he wants to remain in the EU. This is an organisation that inflicts on its member states the majority of its laws and regulations.
    Surely if he wants independence he should seek it from Brussels as well as London.

    • Tom M

      The first thing that popped into my head in response to that question was that the EU isn’t English and that’s important if you see what I mean.

    • robertsonjames

      The answer is, as has been widely discussed in political Edinburgh for some years, that Salmond is a “post-nationalist Nationalist”. That’s to say it’s a mistake to pigeon-hole him as a traditional battler for independent nation statehood and then to express surprise when some of his commitments appear inappropriate to such a label.

      The reality is that Salmond is a genuine enthusiast for supra-national government along the lines of European “ever closer union”. But he thinks (not necessarily wrongly) that London, Westminster and the English in general are major obstacles to the Scots being where he wants them to be within that post-nationalist framework: at the heart of a federalising EU, ideally also in the Euro and certainly very far removed from the semi-detached position in which Scotland finds itself as part of Eurosceptic Britain. There is no contradiction when it’s all viewed in that perspective.

      That’s it, really. It explains how the leader of a Nationalist party can favour what amounts to a Brussels takeover of his country. It also explains why there’ll be the mother of all rows in the SNP soon after 18th September. You see, the soft-shoe-shuffle over the currency, over EU membership and the rest adds to a growing body of evidence, already noticed by his activists and ordinary members, which indicate that the Dear Leader was not actually One Of Them all along. In fact, as they increasingly recognise but can’t say publicly until the referendum is finally lost, Salmond never really wanted the kind of “independence” they wanted after all, and hence he failed to run a sufficiently coherent and credible campaign of the kind they would have wanted.

      The reckoning for the traitor who let the cause down because privately he no longer believed in it, the Toom Tabard of 21st-century Scotland, starts in about six weeks’ time.

  • Eyesee

    The ‘spokesman’ on the news at lunchtime didn’t do Scotland any favours either, talking the arrant nonsense that convinces people that the Scots really have slipped significantly down the intelligence ladder. Scotland used to be such a beacon of education, despite being rabidly tied to extreme socialism, but that ideology at last won and dumbing down and welfare are the order of the day. I want Scotland as a strong partner in a resurgent UK. The North of England, indeed any area can share the prosperity, they just need to ditch socialism and get central government to believe they are serious and get on with sorting the infrastructure (and no, that doesn’t mean the pointless HS2). Anyway, this spokesman said that the ‘No’ campaign was the most negative ever. Bound to be really and the clue is in the title. Do you want Scotland to fail? No. Do you want massive tax increases and large scale unemployment? No. Do you want more politicians like Alex Salmond? Good grief, No. So a United Kingdom it is, without relying on victim status for handouts, but proud and independent in spirit, not politically isolated so Salmond can be the last king of Scotland.

  • The_greyhound

    This morning’s brief from the SNP bunker instructs the depleted ranks of their trolls to assure everyone that the country’s currency is a point of detail, and that the rUK and indeed the rest of the world will be cueing up to guarantee salmond’s version of the New Drachma or Sudanese Pound.

    The only thing we have had confirmed is that the SNP and its idiot adherents really are as stupid as they look. I would not leave this bunch of unhinged fantasists in charge of a whelk stall.

    • Inverted Meniscus

      No the whelks would soon start bossing them about and asserting their intellectual superiority.

  • abystander

    Darling gives the impression of having a short fuse, what with the finger pointing and so on.

    Thought some of the audience questions were disappointing from the lady who asked if Darling had a Scottish address to the chap who thought all North Sea oil production would cease on independence.

    Polls suggest, small sample etc, that more moved towards Yes than No in the wake of that.

    • GUBU

      A short fuse? I’d be permanently furious if I had to constantly fight my body for control of my own eyebrows.

      Mere froth and bubble, of course. Who really believes that such debates are ‘game changing’ moments, except for the media who, funnily enough, are the people organising them?

      Unless someone pulls a gun, drops their trousers or spontaneously combusts on stage, is anyone really going to be swayed by two hours of relatively dull television to either change their vote, or make their mind up?

      My guess is that unless Mr Salmond does all three of those things – simultaneously – at the next debate, Scotland will vote ‘No’ on 18 September.

  • Daidragon

    Very solid from Darling. Labour saving the union.

    • CraigStrachan

      As well they should – they are the ones who put it at risk.

      • Daidragon

        The collapse of the Tories and Lib Dems in Holyrood elections is what brought this referendum about.

        • CraigStrachan

          Not the thumping of Labour by the SNP in 2011, then?

          • anyfool

            My reading of the debate is that no come out on top and it will not change a single yes or no voter, the don’t knows are still there to be converted and the eyebrows will never do that.

            • CraigStrachan

              Yes, I’ve been of the view that a 60 pc + win for No has been baked in the cake from the start. Salmond’s performance last night will have done nothing to.forestall that.

    • JPJ2

      BUT-the medium to long term effect on their party in Scotland will be its destruction.

  • Richard Ferguson

    “His performance was far from faultless. I don’t understand why he was so evidently discomfited by the idea of agreeing with David Cameron that Scotland could survive quite comfortably as an independent country.”

    I thought the same about his failure to answer that question. I couldn’t see any political elephant traps from agreeing that it could survive quite comfortably. It would have been easy to respond that the monumental short-to-medium term uncertainties added into the mix make it so unappealing.

    • starfish

      I think that is what he did say.
      Salmond was trying to trap him into a yes/no answer when the answer has to be qualified

    • The Masked Marvel

      Half the No argument – for ordinary people, not activists or media pundits – is that Scotland wouldn’t do so well. It would have been unwise for Darling to give the papers and the BBC a juicy quote like that.

      • HJ777

        It depends what is meant by an “Independent Scotland could be successful”?

        Compared to what?

        Darling should have simply said “not as successful as it would be by remaining part of the UK”. This is demonstrably true in the short-to-medium term, at the very least, due to the transition and disruption costs associated with secession and the impact these would have on Scotland’s GDP.

        • The Masked Marvel

          Compared to Venezuela. Never mind the short term, though. Who in their right mind sees a long-term subjugation (truth hurts) to the EU as a road to success?

          • Richard Ferguson

            Another great contradiction within Scottish nationalism: let’s get rid of one semi-accountable rat den and embrace a wholly unaccountable one.

            • The Masked Marvel

              That might be because, contrary to the protestations of so many, it’s more to do with emotions and pride than the practical details.

              Cue the “Here we go again” attacks.

  • scotcanadien

    I would call it a draw.

    But try to explain this away. Detailed results from the Guardian poll. @GuardianData, Unds thought Alex Salmond won. Result is Darling 36% Salmond 44% don’t know 20%. This VERY IMPORTANT RESULT wasn’t shown in main @guardian article. Why?

    Everyone knows that the Currency Union is a weak point for YES in a nitty gritty type of debate like last night particularly with the audience packed with NO questioners primed to raise it. But everyone also knows that UK Government is bluffing and that Alex Salmond is right when he says there will be a Currency Union so that specific point won’t make the slightest difference to the outcome of the Referendum. Nor will the views of the biased UK media as to who ‘won’.

    The bulk of people interviewed by media in Scotland today say Darling’s awful performance in the debate has shifted them to YES. Go and look at the Daily Record.

    • Will Rees||GILT%20MARKET%20(10)&reportpage=Issuance_Calendar

      New debt contracts issued (and taken up) since UK Treasury made clear it would honour Scottish chunk of the debt, and won’t enter into a currency union.

    • Inverted Meniscus

      That is because you are a moron.

      • Jambo25

        And you like dear old HJ cannot engage in any form of debate without resorting to crude insults.

        • Inverted Meniscus

          Yeah lad and fatso got his butt whipped last night. Now FO.

          • Jambo25

            Thanks for the confirmation.

            • Wessex Man

              Is this the shrinking flower Jambo25 that we all know so well or an imposter?

              • Jambo25

                Its Jambo25 thanking Mr. Meniscus for proving that he is incapable of writing anything which is not crudely insulting.

    • starfish

      “But everyone also knows that UK Government is bluffing and that Alex Salmond is right when he says there will be a Currency Union so that specific point won’t make the slightest difference to the outcome of the Referendum”
      Lets see – all three main parties have said exactly the same thing and will be going into a general election next year where if they go back on this commitment they will pay electorally
      Now, on the balance of probabilities do you think that really could be a bluff?

    • Inverted Meniscus

      There will not be a currency union because the UK taxpayer is not going to guarantee the newly issued public debt of a foreign country without limit on how much is issued and for how long. It is a huge issue and as Darling proved last night, an issue which Salmond is terrified of confronting. He made a fool of himself last night and Britain was the winner.

    • CraigStrachan

      You could say the currency union and lack of a Plan B are a weak point for Yes.

      You could also say the currency union and lack of Plan B represent an obvious gaping hole in the argument for independence, making it utterly impossible for any proponent of Yes to mount a convincing, credible case, as was amply demonstrated last night.

    • GUBU

      Everyone knows?

      Absolutely everyone?

      That is a VERY STUPID ASSERTION to make when your own post acknowledges that there are people who don’t agree with you. Why?

    • HJ777

      Well if you call it a draw, then that means a clear win for Darling.

      Salmond can’t win these debates because he has no answers other than bluster, distraction techniques and trying to create division and resentment where none previously existed. Substance matters, and Salmond hasn’t substantive answers.

    • The_greyhound

      “I would call it a draw”

      And when NO wins decisively, and salmond resigns on 19th September, you will still be calling it a draw.

      Your inability to cope with reality is extraordinary.

    • DWWolds

      “Everyone also knows the UK Government is bluffing …” Really? Having escaped the disaster that is the euro do you honestly believe the public in the rest of the UK would stand for becoming the lender of last resort to a Scotland that has filed for divorce?

    • Wessex Man

      I had to have a laugh, it seems that many more hold the same opinion of you and Salmond as I do.

  • Open Mind

    The article claims the don’t know voters who voted Salmond won (74%), Darling (26%) was non-significant. If so, it raises the question why did professional poll organizers botch the important group of ‘don’t knows’ with such a low sample rate? In polls the swing of ‘don’t knows’ is generally regarded as the most neutral.

    • Jambo25

      There appears to have been a swing of about 4% to Yes after the debate.

  • Keir Liddle

    It’s worth noting that the margin of error for the 74% of undecideds bit in the ICM snap poll is *comparatively* huge.

    If the audience watching was 5 million (which it wasn’t) than the error is 17.4%.

    However those quick on their abacuses will note that means the amount of undecided voters in the population of people watching the debate somewhere between 54% and 91% of them thought Salmond won. The issue is of course that the confidence interval is very wide so we can’t pin down the exact number but to say we can’t say based on this data that Salmond won or lost I would say is to misunderstand statistics.

  • Kitty MLB

    I loved the remark that Mr Darling made ( although don’t like the chap) when he responded to Mr Salmond who said Scotland can keep the pound: Its like getting a divorce and keeping a joint bank account. Never realised Mr Darling was witty.

    • ChuckieStane

      Kitty, it is a remark that has been made ad nauseam over the last six months by countless unionists.
      One of the most disppointing aspects of the debate was the lack of anything new from either side.

      • The Masked Marvel

        Consider the sources. Why would anyone expect anything new? The debate was for the media and chattering classes, not for ordinary folk.

    • monty61

      Yes I thought it witty too. First time I’d heard it also.

    • Robert Wright

      I used to know him fairly well when he was transport secretary. He was likeable and had an Edinburgh lawyer’s dry wit.

  • ashleyhk

    Romney easily beat Obama in their first debate. Look what happened subsequently.

    • stearl33

      And look what’s happened to the USA after Obama’s election.

      • ashleyhk

        Indeed. Let us hope history does not repeat itself.

    • The Masked Marvel

      Yes, the moderator of the next debate, Candy Crowley, broke protocol with her blatant partisanship. She not only deliberately rigged the questions for Romney (one harridan asked how he was going to be any different from George Bush), she inserted herself into the debate and told a lie to support Obama and block Romney on the Benghazi issue. The US media did the rest.

  • Stereotomy

    THE key point from debate – ICM says that FM won big with undecided voters – 74% to 26% of those still undecided post debate.

    Nicola Sturgen shouldn’t have tweeted this, it’s a dire statistic for Yes! The “still undecideds” were part of a larger group of people undecided before the debate, and they broke for Salmond 55-45

    That means that the people who went from undecided to decided (included in the the second number but not the first) must have overwhelmingly been those who thought Darling won! In other words, of the people whose mind was made up by the debate, most of them were people who thought Darling won

    But as Massie says, it’s such a tiny sample size it’s all nonsense anyway. Just shows an absurd lack of basic mathematical knowledge to tweet such a negative statistic as if it’s good.

    • Open Mind

      I think this is incorrect, I looked at the chart earlier .. the 55% Salmond, 45% Darling poll was PRE-DEBATE (by ‘don’t knows’), AFTER the debate the ‘don’t knows’ voted Salmond won (74%), Darling (26%)

      • Allygally

        “For what it is worth, before the debate started ICM’s unweighted sample reported 180 Yes voters, 206 No voters and 49 people who did not know how they would vote. After the debate they found 189 Yes voters, 224 No voters and 22 don’t knows. 27 don’t knows shifted during the debate and 18 of them went to No while only 9 travelled to Yes.”
        From the article you are commenting on….

      • Stereotomy

        I’m looking at it, question 2. The “IndyRef VI – PRE DEBATE” and “IndyRef VI – POST DEBATE” must refer to their intentions pre-debate and post-debate, rather than them being asked the question pre-debate and post-debate. It wouldn’t make sense to ask “who won” before the debate started. Plus question 1 was specifically confirming that they watched the debate “which finished minutes ago”

  • Neil D

    Hmmm, whoever ‘won’ the debate seems a straw clutcher in itself. Your triumphalism could be mistaken for crowing. After all, points as you point out are awarded depending on who you think came out on top on the key arguments, and to jubilate that ‘well yes would be shouting about the victory had they taken it’ is not a reason in itself to be triumphalist about what was largely a shouty, pointy and perhaps (to his credit) passionate performance from Darling. You call it aggressive – it was and perhaps that played well with some.

    While Darling batted well on the nub of the Unionist concern, the currency, Yes voters (this one included) would point out that Salmond’s refusal to spell out his “plan b” (a catchy phrase that means little when the SNP have spelled out their reasons for sticking to it; and we all know – surely? – that the ploy to call for plan b is a bluff, what option does the UK have in the event of a yes? It would be cutting ones nose off to spites ones face) is, perish the thought, an admirable proposal to stay the course and do what is right for Scotland in the event of a yes vote?

    Darling also came out looking rosy on the issue of alien attacks (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d say). Salmond stepped in an avoidable turd there with those openers and Darling took the moment well.

    But but but! Salmond, let’s be fair (you omit to note any specific positives about Salmonds performance save for a ‘late recovery’), remained calm, collected and composed when explaining to the audience how pensions would be secure (as confirmed by UK Govt), that free education is a bedrock of Scottish society and would remain (with extra marks for the lady in the audience who pointed out the £9,000 fees for English students – hmm which would I prefer?), that the EU issue is manageable and that Juncker has stated that Scotland would be able to gain entry via negotiation – even Darling seemed to agree with that – and scored other notable points on food banks, the NHS and oil funds. Notable wins there? Yes!

    Where he failed, in my opinion, was his lack of urgency, not mentioning trident or Iraq (big issues for many), and not pressing home enough the aspirational potential of yes. By lingering on the negativity of no (Better Together do that daily without any help) Salmond is guilty of not selling the proposal he is campaigning for, and that is his most heinous crime. A lot in yes seem to feel let down by his performance this morning.

    Seconds out.

    • Will Rees

      unsure as to moderation decision – keeping powder dry I hope

    • monty61

      It’s this blinkered guff that discredits the Gnat position. The Westminster chattering classes have been patting themselves on the back since 2008 about their collective ‘foresight’ in staying out of one currency union – the Euro.

      It’s pie in the sky nonsense to suggest any of them are going to sign up for another one with Scotland – it’s just a political impossibility.

      Plan B is essential or the whole Gnat platform falls to bits. if there isn’t one, then it frankly deserves to.

    • Trevor Moore

      I think the there is a distinction to made between the points you rightly say were won by Darling and the ones you claim were won by Salmond. Darling was actually talking about the consequences of independence. There will be no currency union. We have been told this by all three potential governing parties. A consequence of leaving the UK will be leaving the pound. Whereas Salmond spoke of free education as if it were a given regardless of who governs an independent Scotland, when clearly it is not. Similarly Trident and our government’s approach to any forthcoming and ongoing military conflict will depend upon the colour of government we elect.
      I often wonder when the independence campaign will actually start to talk about independence, because most of what we hear is aspirational but has no basis in fact.

    • HJ777

      “Salmond… scored other notable points on food banks…”

      What notable point was that then? That food banks are necessary only because of the union?

      Tell that to the people in the 21 European countries that have them:

  • dado_trunking

    I for one am ambivalent about who/what to support as I still don’t know any facts.

    • Colonel Mustard

      We know that you don’t know any facts…

      • dado_trunking

        Another fact for you:
        isn’t it curious how not a single Ukip apostle now infests this blogosphere?
        For the coming six weeks they just do not fit in. Long live your free press!

        • HJ777

          That was a question, not a fact. That’s why you ended it with a question mark.

          Cant quite see what UKIP has to do with this debate.

          • Inverted Meniscus

            He and his multitude of sockpuppets are EU sponsored trolls who disrupt these threads with irrelevance and gibberish. Ignore them.

        • The Masked Marvel

          What does UKIP have to do with this? Some people are more interested in how Boris throwing his crumpled hat into the ring will damage UKIP’s chances.

          You apparently have no idea what “blogosphere” means, nor a free press.

        • Wessex Man

          er sorry, I’m here now what is it you want to ask me?

          Come the next elections to the Scottish Parliament will UKip be given equal interview time asnd newspaper coverage with the SNP? after all we do now have one MEP in the region.

          • allymax bruce

            And Coburn is another inane incoherent gibbering idiot; he told all Scottish women to breed more. Nice Westminster touch from Calamity Coburn!

    • Inverted Meniscus

      Well as you are an EU stooge based outside of the UK, it is none of your business. Or that of the goat for that matter.

  • Jingleballix

    Debating Scottish independence with Alex Salmond is like debating climate change with Michael Mann.

    The logic guarantees a win, but the opponent just won’t see it……or cease obfuscating and telling lies.

    Salmond is a con man, and a nasty, sneaky one at that. The Scottish people are smart enough to see through him………sadly………for it means that Labour get to keep 43 Commons seats……….

    ………..which was why Darling was taking part in the debate.

    • Colonel Mustard

      “…it means that Labour get to keep 43 Commons seats……….”

      Maybe. But maybe Devo Max would require a reckoning on that count. Trouble is that is likely to be decided by a Labour, possibly LabLib government so it will be skewed to their best advantage.

      How much longer the whole of England will tolerate being governed by Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle and Welsh Labour remains to be seen.

      • Doug

        I think it’s called democracy. You’ll have noticed that we’re currently being governed by a little place called Eton (pop 4,980) and some of us don’t like that much either.

        • HJ777

          Are you. How many MPs either live in or were elected by the people of Eton?

          If you are referring to the school the prime minister went to, let me remind you that our previous two prime ministers went to Kirkcaldy High School and Fettes and I don’t remember anyone complaining about where they went to school.

          • monty61

            Come on, not a serious response at all.

            • HJ777

              Well, it wasn’t a serious point I was responding too, was it?

              I really don’t care what school any prime minister went to. I hold it nether to their credit nor against them on the grounds that it was probably not their choice anyway (and even had it been, what would they have known at that age?)

              • monty61

                It’s fair to say that Eton is special in this regard, and the Old Etonian dominance of this government is a BAD THING in the eyes of many however smart any individuals are.

                • HJ777

                  Eton is well represented in this government, although hardly dominant. The chancellor didn’t go to Eton and neither did the deputy PM.

                  Before this government, when did we last have Etonians in government? Quite a while ago, I think.

                  Do you want people banned from government on account of what school they went to? I’m more worried about people studying PPE and ending up in government.

                • Inverted Meniscus

                  Quite right, A government dominated by Harrovians is what this country needs.

        • Inverted Meniscus

          Really and how many MPs are elected from Eton?

        • Colonel Mustard

          Nah, it’s called Labour’s built-in electoral advantage and it is far from democracy.

          In 2010 the Tories got more than 7% of the votes than Labour and won only 49 more seats. In 2005 Labour got less than 3% more votes than the Tories but won 157 more seats.

          And a lot of us don’t like that (check the electoral map of England – it’s predominantly blue). In fact it stinks. A party of “decency and sincerity” (ha!) and “fairness” (ha!) would correct the imbalance.

          • Guest

            because labour appeal to the poor people forced to live on top of each other rather than the landed gentry in their country estates?

      • Wessex Man

        I don’t mind being governed by people from Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Bristol, Bath, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Coventry etcetra duly elected to an English parliament!

      • crackenthorp

        Ah Colonel Mustard never has believed in democracy, he really wants a one party state (Tory)

        • Colonel Mustard

          Tripe. You don’t know what I want and since I have often commented here on Labour’s aspirations to create a single party state and the desirability of maintaining political pluralism in the face of the left’s quasi-religious morality game you are talking out of your a**e.

    • Inverted Meniscus

      Cannot argue with any of that. Perfect analysis.

  • swatnan

    almost a shakespearean tragedy, but won’t mention which

    • Iain Inkster

      Is that because actors may be reading?

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    Triumph and disaster, you mean. The two imposters. Not twin. Poor old RK, having his words twisted to make a trap for fools.

  • starfish

    I do find it interesting how the regulars that claim they are not cybernats are noticeably absent today
    Presumably they are being reprogrammed at SNP HQ?

    • Inverted Meniscus

      Yes I think a few cybernat nutter circuits got blown last night. Doubtless, the SNP are working up some wicked conspiracy theory to enable their trolls to start blathering defiance and idiocy later on today. I’m particularly looking forward to their ‘Darling is in favour of a currency union bollux’ which no doubt some of these brain dead morons will try.

    • dado_trunking

      Not a single ‘voice of the Ukip’ to be found in the bigoted right wing MSM blogosphere. They just do not fit in right now, do they?

      • Bo Williams

        The SNP are the UKIP of Scotland.

    • CraigStrachan

      If you think they’re lying low today, wait ’til Sept 19th.

    • James Richardson
  • ChuckieStane

    Undoubtedly Salmond had a howler last night. Whoever in his team came up with the strategy should be shot.

    When he had the chance to take the agenda and challenge the unionist myths he went on guff about Andy Burnham and Phillip Hammond’s inane comments. A spectacular own goal. Darling couldn’t believe his luck.

    When he had Darling on the ropes, refusing to say that Scotland could be successful he let him off completely because he knew his summing up speech said that Darling had agreed. An open goal missed.

    His persona was neutered, devoid of aggression and humour,presumably to suit the focus groups.

    Darling didn’t beat Salmond last night – Salmond (or more likely his team) managed to do themselves.

    • GUBU

      I think you are giving Mr Darling too little credit.

      Mr Salmond, we were told, had to control his natural tendency towards glib put-downery to gain any traction with voters. Judging by his performance last night, that constraint must have placed the First Minister under considerable mental strain over the course of two hours. At times, it showed.

      Mr Darling, we were told, only had to manage the debating equivalent of walking and chewing gum at the same time to meet expectations. That completely ignored the fact that he also had to assert some semblance of control over his eyebrows, which, judging by their often erratic performance last night, must have placed the former Chancellor under considerable physical strain over the course of two hours

      It certainly showed, at times, but it struck me that this sort of herculean human effort was winning medals in Glasgow a few days earlier.

      Round One firmly to Darling.

    • HJ777

      “Undoubtedly Salmond had a howler last night. Whoever in his team came up with the strategy should be shot.”

      It was some bloke called Alex Salmond who thought he could get away with daft assertions about currency and the like.

  • High Sheriff

    It was magnificent.
    Salmond is a busted flush.

    • Acintyabedhabedhadasa

      Cause he’s got nae faloorum, he’s got nae faloorum…

  • Adam Carter

    The impostors are ‘Triumph and Disaster’.
    You’re a professional writer and you got this very well-known phrase wrong.
    Tighten up, man. That was just sloppy.