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Mar 18

Why Salmond snubbed Darling’s offer of a TV debate

We have to wait until the end of 2013 before the Scottish Government set out their detailed case. We can start 2014 with a real debate on real detail.

When he publishes his plans, I will be ready to debate that detail with Alex Salmond, every day from the publication of the White Paper to the day we decide our future.

In town halls, in community centres or on live television, I will present our vision for a stronger Scotland and will argue our case that we can have the best of both worlds.
That we are stronger when we work together.

That standing with our friends, our families and our workmates from Wales, from Northern Ireland and from England we are Better Together.

~ Alistair Darling
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So there we have it. The leader of the Better Together campaign has challenged the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, to a live television debate to discuss the subject of independence. You would think the leader of the SNP – who is ever-so confident that independence is the best option for Scotland – would welcome this proposal. And why wouldn’t he? A chance to debate the most important decision Scots will ever make in front of a live audience and millions watching on TV.
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Actually no. According to the Herald, Salmond has rejected Darling’s offer, saying he will only go head-to-head in a TV debate with the Prime Minister, David Cameron:

ALEX Salmond has snubbed calls for a head-to-head debate with Alistair Darling, the leader of the pro-UK Better Together campaign.

Mr Darling challenged the First Minister to debate Scotland’s future after the SNP Government publishes its detailed plans for independence in a white paper in November.

But the First Minister said he expected to debate the issues with David Cameron – and accused Mr Darling of acting as a “human shield” for the PM.

Former Labour chancellor Mr Darling threw down the gauntlet in a speech to councillors and local authority officials.

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Now there is a very simply reason why Salmond does not want to debate Darling. It’s not, as some might say, he is necessarily afraid of Darling gaining the upper hand, which may or may not have turned out to be the case. Both men are confident in their own vision and I’m sure both would walk into a head-to-head with confidence.
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The reason Salmond does not want to go head-to-head aginst Darling is purely because the SNP cannot understand that many Scots have a different view to them on the issue of independence. They cannot accept the fact that Alistair Darling represents the views of many people living in Scotland.
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That is why Salmond turned down Darling’s offer. He does not want to give the impression that the person he is facing is representing the views of the people of Scotland. He wants to debate David Cameron because he lives in England, and in doing so Salmond would be creating a Scotland v.s. England battle.
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Yet that is not what the debate is about. It is about two very different and distinct views for the future of Scotland: one that supports a strong devolved Scottish parliament in a strong United Kingdom versus one that wants Scotland to break off from the UK to go it alone. It is about Scots making the choice between a politics of unity versus a politics of division, not a choice between whether they prefer David Cameron or Alex Salmond.
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Whilst the Prime Minister will naturally have a view on the matter and will of course be playing his part in the pro-UK campaign, the debate will ultimately be won or lost in Scotland, not from Westminster or anywhere else in the UK.
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And that is exactly why the Better Together campaign is one which is run by and led by Scots who value their country’s place in the United Kingdom. And that is something which the SNP will never be able to understand.
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