Salmond gives Yes race a steroidal boost

Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), was the clear winner in the second debate over Scottish independence.

“Although the SNP leader’s debating prowess has often been overstated, he duly rose to the occasion” and beat Alistair Darling, the leader of the No campaign, says David Torrance in The Guardian. Indeed, it almost seemed that Salmond “gave the performance of his life”.

By contrast, Darling “knew his lines, but the delivery was often poor”, while his overemphasis on the issue of the currency “appeared hackneyed and weak”.

Salmond’s victory was “a dramatic turnaround” for the first minister, writes Tom McTague in the Daily Mail, after he “was left flailing” in the first debate when Darling challenged Salmond on the future of the pound. That said, the second debate wasn’t a total victory for Salmond.

The decision to let the pair interrogate each other meant it “descended into an ugly slanging match” for a long period. “While Salmond emerged the clear winner, his aggressive debating style left many viewers unhappy.”

In particular, his strategy of “consistently interrupting his opponent” grated. Indeed, at times, the debate resembled “a cacophony familiar to anyone who has been in an Edinburgh pub at closing time”, says John McDermott inthe Financial Times.

What’s more, Salmond “left many questions unanswered and made some assertions that fact-checkers should examine in the light of the morning”.

But for the most part, the first minister “looked calm and confident, moving in front of the podium to speak up close to the audience”. And “responding to the accusation that he has no ‘plan B’ should the UK refuse a currency union with Scotland, the first minister listed three plan Bs”.

At the very least, Salmond has “given his side a steroidal injection of confidence as it enters the final stage of the independence race”.

However, The Independent thinks that we’ll have to wait a little while “before we can say for certain whether the second of the televised duels between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling has had any impact on how the Scots propose to vote”.

After all, “the first time around, the viewers’ verdict was that Darling had won, but there was no visible gain for the Better Together campaign”.

Pundits should remember that at the last UK general election, Nick Clegg was “the star” of the debates between the three leaders. However, when it came to the vote, “the number of Liberal Democrat MPs fell”.

The Daily Telegraph’s James Kirkup thinks that the second debate shows that Salmond is a “better sprinter than he is a distance runner”. After all, “at the 2011 elections to the Scottish Parliament, he reversed a double-digit Labour poll lead in barely three weeks”.

Of course, “there are lots and lots of reasons why 2014 isn’t 2011”, but “you underestimate Alex Salmond at your peril”. While the odds are still “firmly against” what
would be “the most remarkable and significant comeback in modern British political history… the movie isn’t over until the credits roll”.

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