Salmond upbeat after second debate

Salmond upbeat after second debate

Alex Salmond is said to have boosted the Yes campaign in the final head-to-head independence debate

Better Together leader Alistair Darling, left, with First Minister Alex Salmond at the second television debate over Scottish independence

First published in National Sport © by

The momentum from the final television clash between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling will carry the pro-independence campaign to victory in next month's referendum, the First Minister has claimed.

Mr Salmond said the "Yes campaign are going to have our tails up and our tails will be up for the next three weeks as we carry this campaign to victory".

But Mr Darling, leader of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, said today the independence referendum debate will be a "fight right down to the wire".

He insisted his campaign had the momentum coming out of last night's BBC debate - the second and final TV clash between the two politicians.

A snap poll afterwards by I CM for the Guardian newspaper showed 71% of people questioned thought Mr Salmond won the debate, compared with 29% for Mr Darling.

But the former chancellor insisted: "If you look at all the evidence, all the polls that have been published for the last few months, they consistently show us with a lead, most of them a double-digit lead.

"I'm not complacent - a lot can happen in the next three weeks - but we have momentum. We're making good progress, our activity on the ground, on the streets, has been stepped up dramatically, the results we're getting in are extremely encouraging. I'm very optimistic, but I'm not complacent.

"I've always said I thought this would be a fight right down to the wire, but I am increasingly confident."

Mr Darling, who was visiting a company in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, said that while television debates were part of the democratic process, the "big debate that actually matters is in people's sitting rooms and people's kitchens, that's where the decision is going to be made".

Mr Salmond, who was visiting the Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, said too that " TV debates aren't the be-all and end-all".

The First Minister added: "What matters is the impact on our ground campaign, which is our not-so-secret weapon. We're fighting the most energising, electrifying, extraordinary campaign in Scottish political history.

"That's taking place in the town hall, village halls, towns, cities, streets of Scotland and the impact on the morale of activists is of fundamental importance.

"It's about momentum, it's also about argument. People in the next few days are taking postal votes into their hands. In a few weeks' time they're going to go into polling stations and take the future of their country into their hands. When people do that, they're going to vote for something. They're not going to vote against something.

"People want to vote for things and the Yes campaign are articulating an argument about protection of public services, the creation of jobs, the things that an independent Scotland can deliver for people at the front end of things at the present moment - the people needing food banks, the children being threatened with being plunged into poverty, how we create a more prosperous, a more just society.

"That's what's energising the debate and that's what's going to make the difference in three weeks' time."

In the first TV debate between the two men, the Better Together leader was regarded as having secured a narrow victory over Mr Salmond.

The SNP leader revealed he had a "wee sip" of Lucozade before taking on Mr Darling for the second time.

" I haven't been able to take Lucozade for a year because of my diet so that wee sip before the debate no doubt had an impact," the First Minister said.

" We got into very substantive subjects we didn't get the chance three weeks ago - the health service in particular, job creation and the importance of job-creating powers. I thought they were substantive subjects.

"I think, more seriously, it was about the subject matter that we got on to in this debate - the things people really care about, I think that was very, very important."

Mr Salmond claimed that the No campaign had to "rely on big television things because they've got very little on the ground" in the referendum campaign.

In contrast, he argued that those campaigning for independence "regard these things as an opportunity to shift the focus of the argument on to the things that matter, like the NHS, like jobs for Scotland, because on these things Yes will win".

In last night's debate, Mr Darling again repeatedly pressed the First Minister to set out his plan B for a currency if a formal deal could not be agreed with the rest of the UK to allow an independent Scotland to retain the pound.

But the former chancellor appeared to accept Scotland could use the pound regardless of whether Westminster signed up to such an arrangement.

He said: ''Of course we can use the pound... we could use the rouble, we could use the dollar, we could use the yen. We could use anything we want.''

Today Mr Darling insisted the No campaign had been ''right to focus on currency'', adding: ''One of the things that is striking in the last three weeks is the amount of people who have come up to me and said 'What about this plan B?' is quite remarkable.''

When asked if changes would be made to the pro-UK campaign following the TV clash, he said : ''Absolutely not.''

Postal votes for the September 18 referendum are being sent out from today, and Mr Darling said that as the ''finishing post'' comes into sight, Scots are increasingly focused on the decision to be made.

He said: ''There's a very clear choice here and I think people can see that, people are very focused now, especially as they can see the finishing post.

''I'm increasingly confident we will win, but it is our job to win well and to win well we've got to carry on campaigning up until 10pm on September 18."

The Better Together leader continued: ''If you look at all the evidence, all the polls that have been published for the last few months, they consistently show us with a lead, most of them a double-digit lead.

''I'm not complacent - a lot can happen in the next three weeks - but we have momentum. We're making good progress, our activity on the ground, on the streets, has been stepped up dramatically, the results we're getting in are extremely encouraging. I'm very optimistic but I'm not complacent.

''I've always said I thought this would be a fight right down to the wire, but I am increasingly confident.''

The pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign said afterwards its analysis of the ICM poll had put support for leaving the UK at 49%.

The cross-party group also claimed their research showed that Mr Salmond had "decisively" won the debate among female viewers

Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said: " Last night's debate was an enormous success for the Yes campaign, which called the bluff of the No campaign on currency.

"The debate now moves on to who best runs Scotland - to the positivity of the Yes campaign against the negativity of No, and how only voting Yes can deliver the job-creating powers Scotland needs to build a more prosperous economy and fairer society."

He added: " Alistair Darling shredded the No campaign's bogus currency claims by admitting that of course Scotland can keep the pound.

"The debate is now going to be about who best runs Scotland - the people of Scotland or an out-of-touch Westminster system. And how only a Yes vote can deliver the job-creating powers that Scotland needs."

Meanwhile bookmakers Wi lliam Hill revealed 84% of the bets on the outcome of the referendum since last night's debate had been placed on a Yes vote, and that 98% of the stake money gambled on the outcome since then is also for this result.

The bookmakers has made No its favourite result for the referendum, with odds of 1/7.

Spokesman Graham Sharpe said: " The Yes campaign certainly appears to have received a major boost as a result of the second debate, and we have cut the odds about a Yes vote from 9/2 immediately before the debate, to a current price of 4/1."

A Downing Street spokesman said: "Following last night's debate, the Prime Minister concluded that the First Minister still has no answers on currency or how to fund public services while relying on volatile and declining oil revenues.

"It remains the Government's position that Scotland can enjoy the best of both worlds - the security of being part of something bigger, without the risk and uncertainty of separation."

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