If you were one of the many who didn’t get to see the STV debate between Alec and Alistair last night, you can catch it here. You can make your own mind up who won the debate, but as both sides were keen to emphasis, debates don’t change the weather.
The results of this one though I suspect will have surprised most people. I don’t know anyone I spoke to about it beforehand who seriously thought Alistair Darling would come out of it with his dignity intact.
Indeed, one of the most interesting moments last night on Twitter was when Survation released it’s own pre match figures with how the debate went down with a live ICM panel for the Guardian:
— Survation (@Survation) August 5, 2014
Even though, these ratings are completely in line with the western front like figures for the overall polling in the last couple of years in the case of STV’s own IPSOS Mori polling (underlining that zero effect on the campaign) Yes campaigners having carried the weight of expectation, will have the harder job getting up this morning.
Salmond’s achievement is to get the debate this far. A forty plus per cent dissent level over the United Kingdom’s sovereignty over Scotland is massive achievement. He has proven, against the odds, that Scotland could exist on its own after independence.
And that’s where he started last night. The mild mannered Darling wasn’t long luring him into the mud of currency union question and did his best to keep him there for as long as he possibly could.
Now, forget the debate for a minute, and look at the currency as laid out in Salmond’s own thoroughly detailed proposals for an Independent Scotland…
This is the reason why Alex has no Schlieffen Plan (sorry, I’ve been a wee bit immersed in the WWI thing on the quiet) to cut around the back of enemy lines and knock the opposition out from behind.
For the believers in Scottish independence, the negative consequences of Independence won’t matter. For those of lighter preference, it certainly will.
The key problem, and why the First Minister is so reluctant to engage is the problem of retaining the financial sector north of the border (Edinburgh’s bankers and financiers put a full 24% of GDP into the Scottish national tank).
If you take option two, which is to do what Ireland between the 20s and the early 80s and just peg your Scots pound to the Bank of England, you effectively have no lender of last resort. Don’t get me wrong. Whatever the No camp might say, it can be done. Just not without surrendering a huge chunk of that income to England.
Option one, means that if you can negotiate a deal with England (and like EU membership, why wouldn’t you if you have the democratic mandate for it?), but then you are into the same territory that Ireland finds itself in viz a viz not simply the ECB, but discovering that the German Parliament is getting to approve you’re budgets before the Irish parliament.
Of course, that many only be a temporary measure until something more formal is put in place. Many pro Independence Scots may figure that half a loaf is better than none. The majority, ie, those who have have been holding out in Salmond thus far won’t see it that way.
So, whilst the debate may indeed have been disappointing for the YES camp, I don’t think Darling did anything other than raise a critical and pre-existing fault-line within the Scots populace to the surface.
Salmond has another crack in front of a tv audience, but it is hard to see how it gets past this one issue.
On the other hand, the YES campaign has had a resolute focus on developing an on-the-ground campaign aimed no doubt at keeping up spirits and turnout as their troops approach the enemy lines.
No one wonder no one was backing last night as a game changer. Complacency on either side is the common enemny for either side. But it is Salmond who’s carrying most of the policy handicap just as they go into the last turn of a very long race.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty