Salmond versus Darling round two: Currency continues to dominate

Alex Salmond at Press Conference

With three weeks to go until the referendum, Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond take part in their second debate.

The debate took place just before postal ballots are sent out; one in six Scottish voters are about to cast their votes.

Recent polls show the Yes campaign gaining momentum, but that Better Together remain in the lead.

A Guardian-ICM poll of viewers after the debate showed that 71% thought the first minister won, whilst 29% thought victory went to Alistair Darling, excluding the ‘don’t knows’.

This contrasts with the previous debate where an ICM poll found that Alistair Darling won with 56% to 44%.

The debate had four issue sections, as well as cross-examinations and closing and opening statements. The topic sections were: ‘Economy’, ‘Scotland at home’, ‘Scotland in the world’, and ‘What happens after the vote’.

Broadcast live by the BBC, the debate began with the issue of currency, continuing on from a highlight of last week.

Mr. Darling asked for a plan B if Scotland could not use Sterling after independence, to which Mr. Salmond gave an answer of ‘three plan Bs’ but that he was seeking a 'mandate' from the people in the referendum. However, he reiterated his intention for a formal Sterling-zone.

Asked about the obligation for Scotland to join the Euro if it joined the EU, Alex Salmond said that Sweden was in the EU but does not use the Euro.

Alistair Darling continued to argue that for a currency union to work there would have to be political union and that Scotland’s budget would have to be checked with what would be a foreign government and bank in the event of a currency union.

Such a union has been ruled out by all three Westminster parties. However, Alex Salmond argues that the pound belongs to Scotland as well and a currency union will be in the rUK’s interest. Meanwhile, a recent YouGov Plc poll showed that 53% of people in England would be against an independent Scotland keeping the pound, whilst only 23% backed the idea.

The debate gathered a lot of attention and was watched by many prominent figures.

On the issue of currency, Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, tweeted: “There will be no currency union. Scotland would probably end up with the Euro - the least worst option for Scotland.”

Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister, tweeted: “Alistair Darling - 'Of course we can use the £'.”

Another hot point of the debate was the discussion of oil due to the claims by a key oil industry figure, Sir Ian Wood, that by 2050 production of North Sea Oil would be at around one sixth of the current rate.

Alistair Darling said oil was too ‘volatile’ to be heavily reliant on, whilst Alex Salmond said that it was a great resource for Scotland.

Perhaps in response to this, the ‘Green Yes’ campaign tweeted during the broadcast that ‘We're not obsessing about oil, we anticipate a jobs boom from reindustrialisation through renewables.’

With three weeks to go, until the vote, tensions are increasing as it looks as if we could have a very close result. But only in the early hours of the 19th of September will we know what direction Scotland will take.