State of the debate: Expert reflections

Published: 26 August 2014

Coree Brown rounds up resources from our academic experts on the key themes of last night's debate.

Last night, Alex Salmond faced off against Alistair Darling in the BBC debate, Scotland’s Decides. The debate was centred around several main themes, including the economy, Scotland’s health and welfare system, Scotland within the world, and what happens after a yes vote. With postal ballots going out today, we’ve gathered resources from our team of experts to help you as you prepare to vote. In addition to these online resources, two ebooks are available for free download: Scotland's Decision: 16 Questions to think about for the referendum on 18 September and The Economic Consequences of Scottish Independence. You can find our work on the previous debate and the overall state of the campaign here.

In the opening statement, the First Minister discussed the Yes campaign’s vision for Scotland’s social welfare, noting that the current constitutional settlement does not allow the Scottish Government to act on many of these issues or prevent the bedroom tax or proliferation of food banks. Writing for the blog following the first showdown, Nicola McEwen describes welfare as ‘more fertile ground for the Yes campaign’, which has appeared to struggle to clearly articulate its proposals on currency and other matters.

In his opening statement, Alistair Darling presses for answers on currency and notes the risk of a budget which is so dependent on oil projections which have been called into question by Sir Ian Wood. Darling emphasised ‘no thanks’ did not mean ‘no change’, implying that further powers would be devolved to Scotland in the event of a no vote.

The two speakers then turned to the economy, answering the question from the audience ‘Would we be financially safe in an independent Scotland?’. The key aspects of this discussion were the currency that an independent Scotland would use and whether Scotland’s oil revenues would be sufficient to sustain a Scottish economy.

The two leaders clashed over oil projections, with Alistair Darling citing Sir Ian Wood’s critique of the Scottish Government’s estimates.

Currency was once again a key feature in the debate, with the leaders disagreeing on the likelihood and desirability of a currency union as well as the division of assets and liabilities.

The leaders then turned to issues of social welfare, particularly the sustainability of the NHS within the union or within an independent Scotland. This has been a subject of much discussion on the blog over the past few weeks.

Following a heated cross-examination section, the debate moved to Scotland’s place in the world, discussing defence, defence jobs, and the future of Trident nuclear submarines.

The discussion then turned to what happens post-referendum, in both a yes or no scenario. The two debaters focused on the conduct of the campaign, the level of political engagement, and the prospect of negotiations.


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