Who’s Going To Win The HeavyWeight Battle For Scotland: We look at Salmond v Darling

by Ray_North on November 27, 2013

Unknown-5The debate and vote on the independence of Scotland is perhaps important political event that has occurred in most of our lifetimes. The implications are massive, the stakes are gigantic, the fallout will be rough. I have to say that I already absolutely enthralled by it; and one of the reasons for this is that we have a debate which is being championed by two truly heavyweight politicians – Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling are real politicians, intelligent, articulate and willing to put the things they care about above their own advancement.

Yesterday afternoon – both men were in fine fettle – Salmond introduced the White Paper with his customary confident and persuasive manner; whilst, Darling responded with a clever and thoughtful statement that was low on hyperbole and insult and high on logic.

The initial view seems to be that the vote is going to be close – indeed, it is one of the issues that we on these pages are split over. And so, it may come down to the personal skills of the two men who lead the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns – Salmond and Darling.

So, in a heavyweight fight to the death, who will prevail? This is our assessment of how they fare on the most important criteria.

Scottishness – Scottishness is going to be a big issue in the referendum debate and both men will be keen to ‘out-Scot’ the other. Salmond’s credentials are impeccable, born in West Lothian and educated at St Andrews University, he has personified Scotland for the last three decades, it’s difficult to question his Scottish credentials in any way, Salmond probably knows all twenty nine verses to Flower of Scotland and wears tartan pyjamas to bed.
Score 9/10 Loses a single point for not being able to speak Gallic.
Darling on the other hand was born in, wait for it, London, but makes up for that by being brought up in Kirkcaldy and then attending Uni in Aberdeen. Also unable to speak Gallic, he has however, been photoed in a Kilt and was once Secretary of State for Scotland. Overall, impeccable Scottish credentials.
Score 8/10 Loses a further mark for the London thing.

Charisma – who will be the more persuasive could be key in this contest.
Salmond has charisma in abundance, a naturally charming and charismatic leader of men, the very fact that he has been in politics for so long is, in itself a testament to his personality.
Score – 8/10
Darling is quieter and more cerebral, he doesn’t storm into a room and demand everyone’s attention, rather he trickles in and then impresses with his common sense and logic. He will appeal, but not in the same was as Salmond.
Score 7/10

Intelligence– the questions and debates will come thick and fast over the next year especially as every PR group an lobbyist comes up with new ways to either promote or rubbish the idea, a keen intellect will be vital.
Salmond is absolutely no fool, a degree in Medievil History and a background in banking clearly demonstrates his academic and intellectual credentials – during his years at Westminster and edinburgh, I have never seen or heard of him floundering. However, I wonder if the White Paper, just lacks a bit of rigour and that this, in time, could see him floundering for the first time.
Score 8/10
Darling is a clever boy as well, Chancellor during the aftermath of the banking chaos, it is widely understood that if it wasn’t for Darling’s command of his brief and instinctive understanding of what was going on in the City, USA and the rest of Europe, things could have been a lot worse. A former Marxist, which suggests a certain cerebral quality, he just sneaks it for me.
Score 9/10

Experience – many voters will want to look into the eyes of these two leaders and ask themselves, who has got the most under their belt? (ouch mixed cliche alert)
Salmondis vastly experience, MP between 1983 and 2010, and Leader of the SNP between 1990 and 2000, and then again after 2007 until today, he was elected the First Minister of Scotland in 2007 and has carried out the task with great skill and expertise, this debate, however is the big one, he has marched his troops to the top of the hill and has never experienced anything quite like this before.
Score 8/10
Darling also entered Westminster in 1983 and became a Shadow Minister in the early 1990s and a Cabinet Minister as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in Blair’s first government (compare with the current incumbent Danny Alexander and weep quietly into a hankie), only he, Jack Straw and Gordon Brown were in Government throughout Labours 1997-2010 tenure; it was when he became Chancellor in 2007 however, that he really excelled, bringing calm and purpose to the chaos of the financial crisis and the dog days of the Brown administration. Only loses marks for the fact that he has never been trusted as a leader.
Score 8/10

Skeletons in Closet – If the campaign starts to get grubby, then a Sunday red-top fuelled scandal could make all the difference, who is more prone to making the front pages for the wrong reasons?
Salmond has always come across as a man with a twinkle in his eye, but, despite this, has never been involved in so much as a sniff of scandal, happily married for over forty years, the only possible issue could have been his seemingly close relationship with Murdoch which the Guardian likened to a Bromance in 2012, but, that hardly seems to have led to anything. I can’t see Salmond falling foul to a Fordesque display of madness.
Score 9/10 Loses a point for Murdoch.
Darling is perhaps more likely to have a skeleton or two in his cupboard, a bearded Marxist in his youth, he also admitted to having smoked Cannabis (wow!) and also had a short-lived marriage prior to his second marriage. Although, Darling doesn’t feature on the Ford Scale of Political Craziness, and has, like Salmond, never won our Prat of the Week Award, he loses out to Salmond on this, for the potential (slim) of having his own youth brought out to distract the voters from the real issues.
Score 8/10

So there we have it – the final score:
Alex Salmond – 42/50
Alistair Darling – 40/50

I raise the hand of the heavyweight champion, Alex Salmond.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie_East_West November 27, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Having cut my teeth in my first job working for Alistair Darling, and then working close to Alex Salmond whilst working for the Lib Dems at Westminister – I agree with the heavyweight analysis.
In very different ways, both men have the required gravitas to slug this debate out.
I wonder if there will be a TV debate between both men?


George_East November 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Oh dear – Ray North does counting, never pretty. The score is 42-40 on your numbers.


Ray_North November 27, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Luckily I’ve got you to do it for me! (I’ve amended accordingly!)


Charlie_East_West November 27, 2013 at 4:32 pm

I hope the referendum counters do better. I have a feeling it will be very very close…


Jock November 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Long time reader, first time commenter, but just wanted to point out that you said;

“The initial view seems to be that the vote is going to be close – indeed, it is one of the issues that we on these pages are split over.”

If this is in reference to the Independence outcome, then polling has shown a consistently high lead for the No campaign, over a prolonged period, with little shifting that. True, the coming of the White Paper may change that in the future, but the consensus so far has been a far shout from close.


George_East November 27, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Jock, welcome aboard! You are 100% right that the No campaign has had a strong and steady lead in all polling. I think the reference to the ‘initial view’ is more a reference to how the writers on this Blog see it, than the polling. For my own part I would say it is likely to be close(r) than the polls currently show, but I still think it will be a clear victory for ‘No’.


Mike Killingworth November 27, 2013 at 6:04 pm

What about an unclear victory for “No”? That is to say one in which the margin of defeat is less than the number of English (living in Scotland, natch). What is there in the relevant legislation to stop voters who live in England, whether Scots or English registering in Scotland, since we can register in as many places as we like, we can only vote once in each poll? Why shouldn’t the SNP campaign among Protestants in Northern Ireland, many of whom feel almost as Scottish as they do Irish?

I reckon this could get very messy.


Ray_North November 27, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Thank you for putting me right – you are of course absolutely right, the polls have shown a consistent lead for the Nos – the point I was trying to make was that it may get close from now on.
Hope that you’ll contribute again.


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