Scottish independence: Alex Salmond celebrates fightback but still faces upstream battle towards referendum

First Minister must tackle five issues to ensure Scotland votes Yes

political editor

The four words that Alex Salmond used to close his televised debating victory over Alistair Darling – “This is our time” – has left the Yes campaign with a renewed belief that they can still persuade Scotland to leave the union.

Despite firm answers on public service funding and currency still unclear, the First Minister’s team of advisers nevertheless expect some of the fissures exposed in the Glasgow debate can be worked on between now and 18 September to produce a knife-edge poll result that will leave Westminster uneasy till the last ballot is counted. 

So after the dramatic fight back, which some nationalists said merited comparisons with the spirit of Robert the Bruce, what issues do Mr Salmond and the Yes campaign now need to focus on if they want to spook Westminster’s confidence that Scotland, regardless of Darling’s bad night, will still say No?

Independence will open Scotland to new opportunities

Scotland as a new state with unlimited opportunities, has, according to the Yes team, yet to be fully pushed. Mr Salmond’s advisers believe that as the vote nears, the reality of Scotland being able to rely on its own decisions will prove decisive. “Control” will be re-enforced in remaining set-piece speeches. Mr Salmond launched attacks on Mr Darling for “defending” Conservative policies on the NHS. The underlying message? In “Scottish hands”, none of this would be happening. Mr Salmond expects this will be a critical to unlocking the support of those undecideds who regarded Westminster as “distant and Tory”.

Independence will boost growth and jobs

Control of Scotland’s finances and governance over the Scottish economy is another theme expected to dominate the run-in rhetoric. Part of the package that criticises Westminster as too focused on itself, the positive jobs and growth message is designed to shout over the inconsistencies and risks that exist in an over-reliance on oil revenue, and a lack of guarantees on the currency issue.

The Yes campaign are confident they’ve shot Mr Darling’s fox over the pound. One adviser said: “People just want to know they’ll be using the pound. They don’t care about the detail behind a currency union, or complex arguments over fiscal control. And as Alistair Darling said, there is nothing to stop Scotland using the pound.”

That may be oversimplistic. What lies behind a currency and its value is the impact on growth rates, investment, debt levels and therefore the jobs markets. Nevertheless,  expect the phrase “an escape from the cosh of Westminster” to feature in remaining debates.

Self-belief and confidence

Mr Salmond has tried to show he can run a competent government. Emotional references to Scotland’s “independent” past have been minimal. Although the “Brave Heart” appeal was expected to feature heavily in his referendum campaign, it has been low key as his advisers think now isn’t the time to ramp up the history lessons. Instead, the opening themes mentioned by Mr Salmond in the debate – “this is our time” and “let’s seize it [the moment] with two hands” – were more about confidence and self-belief.  That reflects the belief in the Yes camp which claims that Scotland wants to break from the union – but can only do so if it ditches, they believe, the baggage of the union.

Mr Salmond is seen as a master of this part of his leadership brief. One adviser said: “We really don’t need the ‘rise and let’s be a nation again’ stuff.”


Alistair Darling repeatedly questioned the reliance Scotland has on oil. He claimed the volatility of global oil markets, would leave annual education and health budgets exposed. Alex Salmond attempted to defuse the Darling scare tactics, claiming that any nation would be delighted to have the oil assets of Scotland. It’s expected, over the next three weeks, that rather than hide from Westminster’s claim of over-reliance, the Yes vote will push the benefits of oil, and push their claim that the reserves will last longer than currently forecast.

Expect the comparisons with an oil-rich Norway also to feature prominently. Current forecasts estimate oil would account for 15 per cent of the Scottish economy. In Norway, that figure is 20 per cent plus. “No one ever hears attacks on Norway’s reliance on oil,” said one adviser.

The positive mood of the Yes campaign

Alex Salmond has never taken two and two and just made four. His arguments for an independent Scotland have relied on leaps of faith and optimism.  The success of one debate, in a campaign where the Yes vote has never had a lead of any kind, won’t win the referendum.

But if there is now a bounce in the first polls, the First Minister will act as though Scotland is already in the UN. “Last night was critical. It was the shot in arm we needed,” said one adviser. “If people are convinced this [winning] might happen, then we’re nearer than we’ve ever been.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas