Analysis: Leader debate (in bite-sized chunks)

Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling

The debate between First Minister Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, head of the Better Together campaign, gets under way. So here are some bite-sized chunks of analysis.....

Posted 21:35

Mr Salmond's turn and he pursues Alistair Darling over the issues of welfare and the NHS. He quotes Unison as discerning a threat to expenditure upon health - and repeatedly invites Mr Darling to agree with the statement. He does not.

Again, on the next topic, the FM's approach is to question Mr Darling relentlessly, asking for job creating powers under enhanced devolution. It is argument by attrition. Mr Salmond appears content that he had discomfited the former chancellor. Mr Darling says his rival's arguments are absolute nonsense.

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Posted 21:26

Now, to cross questioning. Alistair Darling started with the currency - and a further demand for Plan B. Mr Salmond said there were three plan Bs - a flexible currency; a currency fixed to the pound and unilateral use of the pound. The FM repeatedly noted that Mr Darling had agreed that Scotland could not be stopped from using the pound.

In this section, Mr Salmond repeatedly tried to turn it round and demand answers from Mr Darling. Would he support a sterling zone in the event of a Yes vote? The FM wanted the same comment as delivered by Jackson Carlaw of the Tories who said he would man the barricades for a sterling zone in the event of independence.

Mr Darling said alternatives to the Union involved rotten currency options.

Mr Darling's second question focused on oil. The debate was feisty - but with no common ground. Mr Darling talked of estimates below that used by the Scottish government. Mr Salmond disputed that - and referred repeatedly to Mr Darling's tenure as chancellor.

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Posted 21:05

From the economy to public services - and the NHS. Alex Salmond expands upon his argument that the NHS in Scotland is potentially jeopardised by the continuation of the Union.

It is not, he says, that Scotland can be forced to privatise the NHS - because control of the service is devolved.

The issue, he says, that financial control does not ultimately lie in Scotland. If there is charging in England, for example, he says that reduces the scope of the public provision in England and, via Barnett, cuts the money available to Scotland.

Alistair Darling responds by accusing his rival of scare-mongering. He says some of the issues raised by the supporters of independence in this regard amount to complete fabrication.

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Posted at 20:49

The debate gets under way - and it starts where the last one left off. With the currency.

Asked about the economy, Alistair Darling immediately links that to the question of sterling by arguing that Alex Salmond cannot offer certainty. That, he said, poses a problem in the economy as it affects individuals - on issues like the household economy and mortgages.

In similar style, Alex Salmond walked to the front of the stage to confront the currency directly. He said he was seeking a mandate from the people to ensure that sterling would be retained as part of a currency zone.

The argument here is that the people of Scotland would be voting for the totality of the White Paper, including the pound's retention.

Next onto oil - and an argument about the North Sea reserves. AD says once it is gone, it is gone. Cannot be dependent on volatile asset.

AS, a former economist, says it is ludicrous to depict oil as a burden. And that Scotland's economy is successful, even without oil.

Brian Taylor Article written by Brian Taylor Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

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