Both camps in the Scottish independence debate have now has their shock: Alex Salmond was shaken to be beaten by Alistair Darling in the first debate, while a confident Darling seemed shaken last night that the First Minister wasn’t giving identical answers to the questions he repeated from his initial victorious round.
As we discussed on our View from 22 special podcast last night, it is very difficult to predict the impact of a resounding victory last night for Salmond on the final result.
But it means the ‘No’ camp have less of a reason to feel that they are cruising towards victory in the final weeks. Any Westminster MP or Better Together activist who had been wavering over whether to make one more campaigning visit will now know that they must make the effort. And the ‘Yes’ camp may feel they are the ones with a more impressive head of steam, even if they’re still behind their opponents.
But one thing both sides can surely agree on after last night’s bad-tempered encounter is that it will be a relief when the hostilities are over. Another encounter between Salmond and Darling would look more like an episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show than the sort of energising, passionate politics that we saw in the first debate. And if there’s to be any sort of attempt to preserve the political engagement that the referendum has encouraged, then it’s best to keep the two shouty men away from each other from now on.