18 Aug 2014

Why next week’s Salmond-Darling debate is so important

Alex Salmond today tried to tug at Scottish hearts, visiting the home of the famous declaration of Arbroath, the statement of independence written in Arbroath Abbey in 1320 at the time of King Robert the Bruce. Salmond today produced his own, updated “declaration of opportunity” – under an independent Scotland, of course.

The former was signed by 30 or so Scottish bigwigs, and is thought by some people to have been one of the documents which inspired the 1776 American declaration of independence almost 500 years later.

“For as long as a hundred of us remain alive, we will never on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English,” they wrote. “For we fight not for glory nor riches nor honours, but for the freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life.”

That’s the passage everybody quotes, though Alex Salmond should perhaps be slightly anxious that immediately before those famous words the Scottish notables warned Robert the Bruce that if he sought “to make us or our kingdom subject to the king of England or to the English, we would strive at once to drive him out as our enemy… and we would make some other man who was able to defend us our king.”


It was a remarkably liberal document for its day, with none of the anti-Semitism of the better-known English Magna Carta of a century before. “With Him,” they wrote (i.e. God), “there is neither weighing nor distinction of Jew and Greek, Scotsman or Englishman.” Indeed, Alex Salmond told me today that was his favourite line from the declaration.

The big issue right now is whether an independent Scotland would be allowed or able to keep sterling as its currency, and whether if it did so that would compromise Scottish independence. An ICM poll for The Scotsman today suggests voters aren’t that bothered about this particular issue, but a couple of voters I spoke to cited uncertainty over the currency as the reason why they would vote no.

Salmond admitted yesterday that he should have made things clearer in the first TV debate with Alistair Darling two weeks ago. But his many interviews today failed to clarify matters. He spoke of Scotland using sterling in “transition” without explaining what the “transition” was a transition to. He ruled out the euro, but did he mean to the Scots’ own currency or to a formal currency union with the rest of the UK?

Salmond was today hailing a slight narrowing in the polls in the last few days, but he urgently needs to narrow the gap a lot more as it won’t be long before people start voting.

There may be a month to go before the official polling day on 18 September, but postal ballots will go out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week to about 20 per cent of the Scottish electorate who prefer to vote though the mail. Past experiences suggests most postal voters cast their ballots straight away.

That means next Monday’s TV debate with Alistair Darling – the second and maybe final encounter between the two men – could be even more important than the first one two weeks ago.

Follow @MichaelLCrick on Twitter

11 reader comments

  1. Paul O'Regan says:

    I think most people have made their minds up.

  2. AlanMacneil says:

    Just saw your report from Arbroath tonight. Horribly biased against the yes campaign and horribly patronising. And you just don’t get it . It wasn’t about currency in. 1320 and it’s not about currency now. It ‘a about self determination and Scottish sovereignty . Next time a Scottish reporter that understands the issues might be a good idea.

  3. john king says:

    The only “Big Issue” you should be dealing with Crick is the one you should be selling, absolute waste of space!

  4. Brendan says:

    Mihael, check your history. Grassroots campaigns always win— French revolution, Suffragettes, Irish uprising, Anti-apartheid, Civil rights etc. etc It will be YES and trite, little reports like this will not stop it.

  5. Scott says:

    Interesting interpretation of the polling shifts in recent days- there was a 16% swing in the latest Yougov poll to Yes in the under 40s- in 8 DAYS. Not what I would describe as a slight narrowing in the polls.

  6. Colin laing says:

    Just love how the English media are so dismissive of the chances of independence. All I will say is look at the published polls for the last two Scottish elections. The look at the result. The polling weighting systems they use for England do not translate well to Scotland.

  7. Scottish lass says:

    The Scottish independence vote is not about Alex Salmond nor SNP – is it really that difficult to understand? Yes SNP enabled this referendum to happen but at the end of the day we have to decide whether to be governed by Westminster or Holyrood. Who to trust to look out for the people of Scotland – for me the answer. Is quite simple.

    Maybe you should start looking at the impact of a Yes vote will be for rUK.

  8. Paddy says:

    I’m an expat living in Australia. Just wanted to say I wish Scotland well in whatever choice she makes. But sadly the main thing that I notice when I whatch article on youtube or read a uk paper on the net about this debate is a lot of sh#t being thrown at journalists and others who get accused of biase and are quite visously attacked by some in the yes campaign for no apparent reason other than not outright supporting the yes side. haven’t seen anything like this in uk media before. Their are a lot of trolls who are making the people of the yes campaign and even the Scotland itself look really bad! National pride is a great thing and Scotland has much to be proud of but over seas via the net were not seeing that so much as lot of ugly thuggish trolls hurling abuse about, it will be a terrible shame if that’s the first thing that comes to mind when/if Scotland becomes an Independant nation again. Not the poetry of burns or the beauty of the highlands or whatever but the instant recollection of all these foul mouth bullying trolls. What a shame!

  9. Stewart Connell says:

    The referendum is a survey.

    It contains no effect or provision for Scottish constituencies.

    The 2010 constituency mandates of MP’s remain in force before during and after a yes result.

  10. John Ferguson says:

    The independence referendum is the first time since World War Two for Scotland’s political voice to be heard. It’s clear . Scotland is not listened to by Westminster. They claimed 2 weeks ago the Od fields west of Shetland were about to run dry and last week did a u-turn aligning themselves with the internet trolls for the yes camp. Turns out ther ARE 40-50 years worth of oil reserves still to be had… It’s that kind of “scaremongering” that is really happening in the press and online. The people of Scotland don’t have facts but tripe thrown by both sides of the debate. Cut through it Scotland and ask yourself this… If I vote, do I want it to count? If your answer is YES then so is your referendum answer. Take control of your lives and stop complaining about unfair taxes. You can vote for who leads us after the referendum. And to all the celebrities who keep telling us what to do… Why are you living in Scotland? Why do you not tour outside of London? What makes you think a visit once in a while gives you an understanding of the Scottish people? We need control and this referendum is our chance to do it. Don’t blow it scotland. Oh and crick try and fix your tone. You come across as rude dismissive and arrogant every time you speak. Nothing to do with what your saying, simply the way you say it. Jon snow next time please

  11. Steve Stuart says:

    I find the people who will vote ‘No’ in the referendum to be mostly sensible, thoughtful people who have weighed up the pros and cons and decided that independence is not what they want. Their reasons will vary but, when asked, they will give opinions on various important issues. ‘Yes’ voters, it seems, can be characterised as being obsessed (sometimes to the point of hysteria) with very minor, irrelevant or exaggerated differences between parts of the UK. They are intent on having separate identity at all costs and discount many of the relevant issues. This rather manic, self-obsessed brand of nationalism, as illustrated in nearly all the comments this site receives, is dangerous because noisy extremists can infect undecided or uninformed people with their nonsense, simply because they shout loudest and confuse emotion with common sense and reasoned facts. Their apparent hatred for Mr Crick is illogical.

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