Leaders clash in final debate before Scotland vote
LONDON (AP) — Scotland's leading politician vied with Britain's former treasury chief in a heated televised debate Monday, making a final push to capture wavering voters three weeks ahead of a historic referendum on Scottish independence.
Pro-independence First Minister Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling argued and shouted over each other on questions from defense to the sustainability of an economy dependent on revenues from North Sea oil, but the heart of the 90-minute exchange centered on what currency an independent Scotland would use.
The two rivals had faced off in a first debate session on Aug.5, and both men stuck to familiar arguments Monday. Salmond reiterated that he wanted the territory to keep using the pound sterling in a currency union with the rest of the U.K.
But Darling, who leads the "No" campaign, maintained that such a deal would not work and would leave Scotland with little control over its economy. His opponents provided no financial security for Scotland's future generations, he argued.
"Any country's starting point is currency, money," he said. "Uncertainty about currency can bring a country to its knees."
Salmond appealed to television audiences to vote for a Scotland governed by Scottish people.
"We can create a prosperous nation and a fairer society. A real vision for the people of Scotland. This is our time, it's our moment — let us do it now," he said in his opening remarks.
The debate was the last one before the Sept. 18 referendum.
Polls have suggested that voters are narrowly divided on whether to break up Scotland's 307-year-old union with England, or remain alongside the English, Welsh and Northern Irish inside the United Kingdom.
While the anti-independence side has maintained a consistent lead, support for independence has been growing and thousands of still-undecided voters are holding the balance.