Summer Holiday Round Up: Part 2 Scotland

The Scottish referendum is looming ever closer and the second Alistair Darling v Alex Salmond Debate took place last week.

Having narrowly won the opening debate earlier this summer Alistair Darling was roundly beaten by an affable, calm and confident Alex Salmond in the second contest. Polling data suggested that 71% of viewers felt Salmond had won while only 29% backed the former Labour chancellor.

Key issues discussed during the debate were the currency and oil.

Alistair Darling felt that both issues would be strong for the yes campaign, however Salmond seemed to win despite an arguably weaker position on both issues.

Firstly the pound- earlier this year perhaps the normally unusual triumvirate of Danny Alexander, Ed Balls and George Osbourne stated that they would block a currency union between an independent Scotland and what was left of the UK. However Salmond responded during the debate that Scotland could not be stopped from using the pound and would continue to do so- to quote the First Minister ‘it’s not George Osbourne’s pound, it’s Scotland’s pound’. There is a precedent to this- both Ecuador and Panama use the US dollar without the formal agreement of the USA. Salmond’s trump card on this during the debate appeared to be his threat that if Scotland did not get a share of the Bank of England’s assets (e.g. the pound) then it would not take it’s share of the Bank of England’s liabilities- e.g. the rather large amounts of debt that the UK has at present.

Secondly, oil. North Sea oil has been a key factor in the narrative of Scottish independence since it was first drilled in the 1970s. It is not a simple coincidence that support for the SNP and demands for devolution and ultimately independence date from the same decade. Alex Salmond’s spending plans for independent Scotland are based on projected oil revenues. During the debate Darling was quick to suggest that the SNP were working from exaggerated forecasts. However, Salmond was quick to state that the forecasts have historically been unreliable in both directions and that every other country in Europe would be delighted to have any North Sea oil- Salmond’s constant comparison between Scotland and wealthy, stable oil rich Norway appears to have appealed to voters despite Darling’s desire to down play the value of the oil.

Latest polling on the issue of independence- suggests that the ‘Yes’ vote now stands at a record high of 47%. Interestingly most pollsters suggest that it may be women who ultimately swing the vote. You can be asked to explain why referendums and elections have the outcomes that they do, and being able to discuss the demographics of voting trends (class, region, age, gender) is really important- so do read the section from the Guardian.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/aug/30/independence-referendum-scotland-vote-women

http://www.economist.com/blogs/blighty/2014/08/scottish-independence-0

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