Scottish independence: Salmond and Darling set for second TV clash

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image captionMr Salmond and Mr Darling will take part in a televised BBC debate on Monday evening

Both sides in the independence referendum campaign are gearing up for the second televised debate.

First Minister Alex Salmond and Better Together leader Alistair Darling go head-to-head on the BBC on Monday evening.

Labour's Douglas Alexander said Mr Salmond goes into the debate with a "very difficult set of cards to play".

A spokesman for the first minister said it was a chance to show why Scotland "can, should and must" be independent

The two leaders are expected to clash on issues including currency, the NHS and North Sea oil estimates following Sir Ian Wood's claims that Scottish government figures were too high.

The leaders' first live debate aired on STV on 5 August, with both sides claiming victory.

The second debate will be screened on BBC One Scotland and across the rest of the UK on BBC Two, from 20:30 on Monday.

The 90-minute event will be staged at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow in front of an audience of 200 people selected by polling and research consultancy ComRes.

'Basic question'

Ahead of the debate, shadow UK foreign secretary Mr Alexander, who is a key figure in the "No" campaign, said he expected the first minister to deliver a "strong performance".

He said: "Alex Salmond is a formidable debater and a capable politician.

"I fully expect that he has been working hard and will put in a strong performance on Monday evening, but he is selling a product that Scotland doesn't want to buy."

Mr Alexander said the SNP would have wished to have resolved central issues surrounding the economic case for independence, and be able to focus on appealing to emotions in the final weeks.

He added: "For them to be in a position with just days to go until postal ballots drop where they cannot answer the most fundamental question in relation to what currency Scotland would use, when they cannot answer the most basic question in terms of the sustainability of health, education, pensions and public services on which we all rely, is genuinely not where they expected to be."

'More sustainable'

A spokesman for Alex Salmond said: "Douglas Alexander must inhabit a Westminster bubble where news from the real world doesn't reach.

"An independent Scotland will keep the pound because it's our currency too, and pensions and public services will be more sustainable after a 'Yes' vote because Scotland's economy is stronger than the UK's.

"It is Westminster's cuts and privatisation of the NHS which threaten Scotland's health service, which is precisely why we need a 'Yes' vote.

He added: "The last three polls all show significant swings to 'Yes' - with support as high as 48% - and we are looking forward to the debate as an opportunity to communicate the positive message why Scotland can, should, and must, have the powers of an independent country."

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image captionMr Salmond and Mr Darling are expected to clash on North Sea oil and gas figures

Oil and gas revenue figures are expected to be one of the main issues both leaders will focus on during the debate.

The figure of 24bn barrels is quoted in the Scottish government's White Paper on independence as an estimate from industry body Oil and Gas UK.

However, oil expert Sir Ian has claimed there are about 15bn to 16.5bn barrels of recoverable oil left, and that the figure from the White Paper was 45% to 60% too high.

The UK Treasury has updated its forecasts of the Scottish deficit in the year of independence 2016/17 to include analysis of Sir Ian's estimates.

Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander said an independent Scotland would face a basic tax rate of 30% or 5% cuts to public spending with Sir Ian's figures taken into account.

He said: " An independent Scotland from day one would have no choice but to make substantial cuts to public services or substantial increases to income tax for people in Scotland."

The Scottish government has said its figures use the industry's own estimate of 24 billion barrels of oil equivalent, with the first minister describing it as "robust figure".

The figure encompasses future exploration of new reserves, while Sir Ian's estimates appear based on projections which only go as far as the year 2050, the Scottish government has said.

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: "Westminster politicians have been claiming for decades that oil is a curse for Scotland and a blessing for every other country, but people are now seeing through that, and on 18 September have the opportunity of a lifetime to put Scotland's wealth in Scotland's hands."

Responding to Sir Ian's claims, industry body Oil & Gas UK said it remained "of the view that there could be up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas to recover".

A spokesman added: "We note Sir Ian Wood's view that between 15 - 16.5 billion barrels of oil and gas may be produced from the UKCS.

"Oil & Gas UK however believes there is a broader range of possible outcomes."

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