UK

At-a-glance: Salmond v Darling Scotland debate

  • 26 August 2014
  • From the section UK

Yes Scotland's Alex Salmond and Better Together's Alistair Darling have slugged it out in the second of two debates on Scottish independence. Voters in Scotland will go to the polls in a referendum on 18 September. Here are some of the key moments:

Who won?

A snap poll by the Guardian newspaper, in conjunction with ICM, suggests First Minister Alex Salmond, who fronts the SNP government, won the contest against opponent Labour's Alistair Darling. It gave the debate to Mr Salmond by 71% to 29%.

However, an ICM/Guardian poll immediately after the first TV debate was aired on STV on 5 August found a majority thought Alistair Darling fared better on that occasion. More than 56% thought Mr Darling came out on top while 44% thought Mr Salmond won.

Social media reaction

Twitter was abuzz with reaction during the debate. There were a total of 255,559 tweets, with the spikes in conversation - measured by tweets per minute - when Mr Salmond grilled Mr Darling over job creation, Mr Salmond pushed Mr Darling over the bedroom tax and the first minister was once again quizzed over his currency plans.

This timelapsed world map pinpoints where people were tweeting about #bbcindyref, and other associated hashtags.

On Facebook #bbcindyref, #indyref, and #scotdecides were trending in the UK throughout the debate, and #bbcindyref and #indyref began trending globally by the end.

There wasn't much difference between how many men talked about the debate compared with women, and the chatter came from a broad range of ages, mainly between 25-44.

#bbcindyref: What Facebook talked about

The most 'buzzed about' topics

1. Jobs

  • 2. NHS

  • 3. Oil

  • 4. Currency

  • 5. Hypocrite

What was the mood like?

Much more fiery than the first time round. The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson described the debate as two heavyweight bruisers locked together - both desperate to land a knock-out blow. Mr Darling seemed edgy and nervy, whilst Mr Salmond appeared better prepared and more confident, our correspondent said. The two men often talked over each other, which made it hard to follow their argument at times. Both spoke with passion - sometimes aggression - suggesting both sides are feeling the tension. With just a few weeks to go until the vote on Scotland's future, both sides are clearly up for the fight, BBC Scotland political reporter Andrew Black said.

BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor said Mr Salmond had plainly sketched out his scenario planning much more successfully than in the first televised encounter. At the end, Mr Darling was still standing, still in the ring, but it was Team Salmond who were smiling.

Key quotes

Alex Salmond: "I set out the options very clearly - three Plan Bs for the price of one. They are just like buses... you expect one and then three turn up at once."

Alex Salmond: "You're in bed with the Tory Party, in bed with the Tory Party."

Alex Salmond: "They cannot stop us using the pound - that's the most important revelation."

Alistair Darling: "He's asking us to his word for it on everything, no Plan B for anything. Trust what he says - sorry I can't."

Alistair Darling: "In the last debate, Alex Salmond mentioned the NHS once. Since then we have been subjected to a scare campaign, principally of what's happened in England."

Alistair Darling: "A good line is not always a good answer."

Clash over currency

With the two sides at loggerheads over whether an independent Scotland would be able to use the pound, currency was always going to feature prominently. Sticking to his guns that a formal sterling currency union is not up for negotiation, Mr Darling said the first minister was taking a "huge risk" if he thought it could happen and again pressed the first minister to spell out his Plan B. Clearly keen to move on from the first debate, Mr Salmond offered up three. "We could have a Scottish currency. We could have a flexible currency like Sweden or Norway has. We could have a fixed rate Scottish pound attached to the pound sterling. That's what Denmark does with the euro and Hong Kong does with the dollar," he said, refusing to set out his favoured option.

However, Mr Salmond stuck by his preferred 'plan A', saying no-one could stop Scotland using the pound and no chancellor would let Scotland get away with escaping its share of the UK debt liabilities, so a currency union would be agreed.

Mr Darling and the UK government have ruled out an independent Scotland keeping a currency union with the Bank of England as "lender of last resort" as being too risky for UK taxpayers.

However, Mr Salmond seized upon the former chancellor's acknowledgement that Scotland could keep using the pound - without a currency union - as a victory. "They cannot stop us using the pound - that's the most important revelation [of tonight]", he said.

Watch the opening and closing statements from each side...

You can watch a catch up version of the clashes on our Salmond v Darling report page.

Select the Live Coverage tab and click on the "Scotland Decides: Salmond versus Darling" video and you can jump to key points in the programme.

Fact checking - by Emily Craig

Alistair Darling said UK revenues from North Sea oil and gas are "volatile" and were £5bn less than expected last year. Scottish government statistics show there was indeed a drop in UK revenue of around £4.4bn - from £10bn to £5.6bn. As Mr Darling says, £4.4bn is around half of the annual Scottish health budget.

Alex Salmond said the UK is Scotland's biggest export market and Scotland is the second largest market for the rest of the UK. The figures back him up. Scottish government statistics suggest 65% of Scottish exports were destined for the rest of the UK in 2012. (That's excluding oil and gas, which is counted as a UK export.) Meanwhile the UK Treasury says Scotland is the second biggest market for the rest of the UK, after the United States.

Alistair Darling said public spending in Scotland is £1,200 per head more than in the rest of the UK. According to the House of Commons Library, in 2012-13 public spending per head in the UK as a whole was £8,788 and for Scotland it was £10,152 - a difference of more than £1,300.

Alex Salmond said Scotland doesn't have "financial control" of the NHS. The Scottish budget is decided by the Barnett formula. This means that when the UK government decides to change the level of spending in a devolved area, the Scottish government's budget is adjusted in proportion.

However, the Scottish government can allocate money wherever it chooses. So even if the UK government did decide to spend less on health, the Scottish government could maintain or increase its spending on the NHS provided it found the money elsewhere. But there would be pressure on other areas of its budget.

Alistair Darling said the NHS in Scotland has spent nearly £100m in the last couple of years on private sector providers. It's not immediately clear where this figure is from. Earlier this year, the SNP's health secretary said the NHS had spent £28m on independent providers (0.8% of its total budget) in 2012-13. He added that this would fall to around £25m in 2013-14.

Alex Salmond said Scotland is saddled with its share of the £100bn cost of Trident. That's a figure for the total "in-service" costs, as estimated by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. But the Ministry of Defence puts the cost at between £11bn and £14bn, according to this report from the House of Commons Library.

Here are some graphs:

What the pundits said:

There is some consensus among the Scottish papers that the second TV debate was Mr Salmond's night.

The Herald and the Daily Record say "Salmond strikes back" and "Salmond bounces back" respectively.

The Scottish Sun keeps it simple: "Not tonight, Darling".

Other papers make more of the fiery exchanges. The Scottish edition of the Daily Telegraph says Mr Salmond was declared the victor after the showdown descended into an angry shouting match.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Daily Mail called it "The Great TV Debate Turn-off". Mr Salmond was "arrogant and un-statesmanlike," it goes on, claiming he bullied his way through the most important 90 minutes of his political career shouting over his increasingly rattled opponent.

More on this story