Speed Reads

Scotland Decides

Scotland is voting on independence in 3 weeks, and this debate may have tipped the scales

On Sept. 18, voters in Scotland go to the polls to decide if they will secede from the United Kingdom and become an independent nation. Monday night was the second debate between pro-independence leader Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, who heads a pro-unity party.

In their first debate, Salmond fell flat and flubbed some answers, but on Monday night he won handily, potentially reviving hopes for the pro-indepedence movement. In a snap poll from The Guardian/IMC, 71 percent of respondents named Salmond as winner of the second debate, while Darling got the other 29 percent. The "yes" on independence side has been trailing in the polls. Whether or not it moves those numbers, Salmond's spirited performance "will raise the hearts of Yes supporters," polling expert John Curtice, from Strathclyde University, said after the debate.

The pro-independence Yes Scotland was more optimistic still. "We know the momentum is with us in this campaign," the group's chief executive, Blair Jenkins, told BBC Radio Scotland on Tuesday morning. "I know the ground is shifting under the No campaign, they know it and, much more importantly, the people of Scotland know it."

Salmond won more on style points than substance. The rowdy debate focused a lot on what currency an independent Scotland would use — Salmond says Scotland would force its way into a currency union with Britain, a notion all three major UK parties reject — and if there's a Plan B (Salmond says yes, but won't quite spell out what it is). Other topics included social services spending and the state of the National Health Service. They are local issues, but the video below will give you a good sense of the tenor of the debate — plus a chance to listen to some fine Scottish accents. --Peter Weber