How about those twin imposters, triumph and
defeat disaster? The reaction to last night’s debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling reveals as much as anything that happened in the debate itself. And the story it tells is that Darling won a handsome victory.
His performance was far from faultless. I don’t understand why he was so evidently discomfited by the idea of agreeing with David Cameron that Scotland could survive quite comfortably as an independent country. Nor was I impressed by his response to the question of what greater powers might be devolved to Scotland after a No vote. Mentioning road tax was a blunder.
But at least he did not talk about aliens.
At least Darling did not made a chump of himself in that fashion. For all that he received a terrible beating on questions about the currency and economic policy, Salmond’s greatest error came when he was given the change to cross-examine Darling and chose to use it to mock some Unionist hyperbole much of which, as Darling noted, ought not to be taken too seriously. By doing so, Salmond made himself look small. Worse, he made independence seem small.
If he recovered somewhat in the latter stages that recovery was both too little and too late to salvage the evening for the First Minister. He lost the rounds that dominated the debate.
Whining that “it’s our pound too” isn’t quite good enough. Perhaps a currency union could be agreed after independence but, as Darling pointed out, it would come with significant strings attached that would inevitably constrain the actual independence of an independent Scotland. To this Salmond had no good answer, largely because – however inconveniently – the facts and balance of probabilities are each against him.
Darling also – and quite deliberately, I think – took aim at Salmond’s character.