Scottish Referendum

Mr Salmond and Mr Darling pitch themselves head to head, fighting amongst themselves, with the audience, and against Mr Ponsonby. Two big names in UK politics, debating a question that has nothing to do with names – or at least shouldn’t.

Unfortunately what could have been a healthy debate was riddled with personalities, name dropping, and direct personal attacks. This is not what I signed up for. Oh, yes, my dear Scottish friends, your vote does not solely affect you. It affects us all. From the depths of the South, to London, to Cardiff, and yes, to Edinburgh, this vote affects us all. So why, therefore, am I forced to sign up to a website I will likely never again visit, and then watch the debate on my smartphone, thanks to a shoddy and unusable website that clearly was incapable of handling the traffic that a national (and perhaps, come September, international) debate was so indubitably going to attract? Surely one must consider this “in the public interest”, and thus it is worthy of national FreeView television, and not just for those who inhabit Scotland. Selfishness by Scotland? Or simply lack of foresight. Neither bode well for prospective independence.

Back to personalities, it seemed to me worryingly unsettling that so much of the debate encompassed quick jokes at the other’s expense, easy pickings, and most prevalently, criticism of Mr Darling’s chancellorship. What Mr Darling’s personal handling of the banking crisis has to do with the question of Scotland’s future eludes me.

On a side-note to both politicians, a healthy debate requires a question, and an answer. Politics is no stranger to avoiding questions. However, avoiding the question requires some sort of distraction, or an illusion that one has indeed answered the question. Unfortunately, this was not the case for either Mr Darling or Mr Salmond, who at times both found themselves stumbling over their words in an apparent imitation of a Friday night in Newcastle.

Arguably the biggest contention of the debate was that of Scotland’s prospective currency. It seemed that Mr Salmond was rather set on sharing our beloved Pound Sterling. This, however, was something that Mr Salmond is not at liberty to choose. An independent Scotland would be at the whims of Westminster on a number of issues, currency included. Perhaps more damaging for his argument is exceedingly clear notion that desiring a currency union gives Westminster many of the same controls that exist already. An independent Scotland “sharing”, or “piggy backing” onto the GBP would give Her Majesty’s government a large degree of financial governance over Scotland. It seems I was mistaken in the assumption that independence requires self governance. On the contention of currency union, it was increasingly vexatious that Mr Salmond seems to have no “Plan B” in the event that “fear-mongering” is actual government policy, or at least no alternative that he was proud enough of to share with us.

Unfortunately Mr Darling became unstuck at the final hurdle. He seemed close to finishing up putting the final nails into Mr Salmond’s coffin. An independent Scotland cannot guarantee her pensions *thwack*, you have no plan B to a currency union *thwack*, how will you eradicate austerity with less income and a proportionately higher deficit? *thwack*. Yet Mr Salmond fought from the grave surprisingly well, regaining his cool after a brief period in which his face seemed to grow redder than a labour rosette. Towards the end Mr Salmond found himself connecting with Mr Darling, distributing a number of hard-hitting blows.

Unfortunately, as is the case for all high-profile debates, personality seemed to be the limiting factor. As he was questioned on austerity, especially under his chancellorship, Mr Darling found himself at an impasse, caught between showing the positive effect of the union, and inadvertently supporting his nemesis Osborne, or not supporting the Conservatives, and failing to show how the union helps Scotland.

Yet there seemed to be some agreement in the debate: we cannot be sure of what will happen. Scotland could become prosperous independently! Then again, it might not. Brilliant.

– Rant over.