Darling: Not quite the 'bore of Britain'

Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond are taking part in a televised debate. Photo: Press Association

It was said before this pre-referendum debate that Alistair Darling should "bore for Britain" to win this debate.

The former Chancellor is not known as an aggressive politician. The word 'dull' has been used.

Not tonight to the surprise of many members of the media in what we might still call the press room at the Royal Conservetoir in Glasgow.

Mr Darling, the leader of Better Together, took on the First Minister over what his 'Plan B' would be if he fails to achieve his plan of a currency union with Sterling after independence.

Mr Salmond was under pressure on this because the SNP's White Paper, and the Yes campaign, say there will be a Sterling currency union.

For Mr Darling, taking his turn to ask questions first, the argument was that a currency union requires political union, which is what the UK already is. Mr Salmond, who was more relaxed certainly at the start of the debate, retorted that the pound was as much Scotland's as it was the rest of the UK's.

Sections of the audience in the hall were not impressed and there was even what sounded like some heckling.

Mr Salmond in his first questions raised what he said was 'Project fear' claims Scots under independence would have to drive on the right hand side of the road, or would face more of a threat from space.

To this Mr Darling said he was to debate issues like currency and pensions. However, the former Chancellor was on a stickier wicket when he was pressed by the First Minister on whether he agreed with David Cameron that Scotland could be a "successful independent country".

Mr Salmond pressed him several times to answer this, and Mr Darling said an independent Scotland could be independent but there would be risks. This reply also aroused some scepticism from the audience and, again, some heckling.

The First Minister, by the way, concluded that Mr Darling agreed with the Prime Minister but did not want to say so. Mr Darling did not respond directly.

So both of the politicians in this crucial debate under pressure from each other and both, it would be fair to say, on the back foot on certain issues. The question is whether the answers to each other - or as some might see it the non-answers or answers to a different question - alter voters perceptions. A key question is whether the voters are happy with the answers they have got from Mr Darling or Mr Salmond or whether they still think they have no got straight answers.

There will be poll immediately after the debate which might give us a feel for what voters think. It will take until the referendum itself to get the final answer, of course.

More on this story