Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond and former British finance minister Alistair Darling, who is fronting the campaign to remain part of the United Kingdom, go head-to-head in the first and possibly only live television debate of the campaign. It is a bigger moment for Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, who must garner a shift in the polls which consistently put his “Yes” campaign significantly behind with the referendum only six weeks away.
At the last British general election, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was widely perceived to have won the leaders’ debates yet it didn’t translate into votes. There are, however, a large number of “don’t knows” to play for in Scotland and Salmond is by common consent the more charismatic figure and slick orator.
During the two-hour debate, Darling is likely to highlight the uncertainty over whether an independent Scotland could retain the pound and automatically be part of the EU and how the nationalists would fund their public spending pledges.
The “No” campaign can also point to the greater devolved powers all the major parties are promising Edinburgh should the Scots vote no. Overnight, Britain’s three main national political parties all said they would seek further powers for Scotland in the event of a “No” vote, in the areas of fiscal responsibility and social security.
The latest opinion poll, by Survation, showed 46 percent of voters would back the “No” campaign and 40 percent will vote “Yes”, with 14 percent saying they hadn’t decided. Some polls show up to a quarter undecided. Should Salmond win the debate decisively and move the dial it will be interesting to see if markets being waking up to the chance of Britain fracturing after the Sept. 18 vote.
Israel and Hamas have agreed a 72-hour truce mediated by Egypt in an effort to build negotiations on a more enduring end to the month-old Gaza war. After the experience of other truces in recent days, whether it will hold is anybody’s guess. It took effect at 0500 GMT and minutes beforehand Hamas launched a salvo of long-range rockets. Israeli ground troops have withdrawn from the Gaza strip and Jerusalem is expected to send delegates to talks in Cairo to seek a longer-term deal.