We were told that Salmond was the best orator in the country. We were told that Salmond was the best debater in the country. We were told, in short that Salmond was a big beast of the political landscape, both here and UK wide.
So how did Salmond lose a debate against Labour’s own version of John Major, Alistair Darling?
|Salmond, STV's Bernard Ponsonby and Darling|
The first thing to point out is that, in spite of the dominance of the SNP and the loud claims of supporters of Independence, polling still shows a lead for those who would like us to stay in the union. The poll unveiled at the start of STV’s debate tonight showed a 42/58 split in favour of the union, though with a rise in support for Independence. This means that Darling’s “Better Together” campaign has a lead to defend. It might be a stretch for this to justify the notorious “Project Fear”, but it explains Darling’s performance tonight.
What it doesn’t explain was Salmond’s poor performance tonight. The First Minister needed to convince undecided’s (I suppose like myself) that Independence is a project worth buying into. Instead we got the soundbites that have been rattling about the MacTwittersphere since… well probably the launch of Yes Scotland over two years ago.
After the opening arguments, Darling aggressively questioned Salmond over his plan for a Sterlingzone. It was at this point that Salmond’s night came close to collapse when Darling asked and asked and asked for Salmond’s plan B. Salmond stuck to his guns about the pound being as much ours. I’ve said before that I don’t think Sterlingzone would be in the best interests of I-Scotland, surrendering fiscal powers to our biggest competitor is not good politics, while my short to medium term preference would be for a “Scottish” Pound tacked to Sterling. I just don’t get the Pro-Indy camp’s dogged ideological preference for Sterlingzone.
Salmond’s choice of questions didn’t help him. Instead of focusing on the arguments regarding Westminster’s intransigence towards Scotland or maybe their economic arguments (currency aside), Salmond went on Project Fear asking darling questions about Better Together’s apparent statements on I-Scotland’s policy towards driving on the right and aliens. Salmond sort of wound up to trying to get darling to agree with Cameron over… well I’m not sure. I think when Salmond opened his set of questions on “Project Fear” he lost the debate there and then.
The second part of the debate was a straight audience participation section. This section, in truth felt like a sort of lull. Darling was essentially just sowing doubt regarding Salmond’s claims, while Salmond fell into the trap of regurgitating all of the Pro-Indy’s soundbites.
This has been the aim all along for Better Together, to essentially defend their poll lead. As notorious (and at times laughable) Project Fear has been, it has mostly preserved their poll lead. It’s also meant that it’s been incumbent on Yes Scotland to make the running – which they haven’t. I tweeted that Darling skewered Salmond on Sterlingzone and did nothing else – because he didn’t need to do anything else. Darling’s job was maybe done, but Salmond was very poor tonight.
For long and weary, I’ve said that Scotland will vote to stay in the union for as long as the SNP and Yes Scotland persist with Sterlingzone and with the current line regarding EU membership – policies I’ve dubbed “The Salmond Plan”. Tonight was conclusive proof that for all that the grassroots campaign has been the most successful part of their campaign that will count for nothing with “The Salmond Plan”. I’m not sure how Salmond can reverse out of this cul de sac. The time to do something is now running out, while tonight was a definite missed opportunity for pro-Independence supporters.