ALEX Salmond has described the independence referendum as the “most empowering story” in European history.
The First Minister claimed Better Together leader Alistair Darling has “withdrawn from the campaign” by not taking part in any further TV debates following what was widely seen as a defeat for the former chancellor in a televised BBC clash last week.
Mr Salmond also said Prime Minister David Cameron “is right to be nervous” about the outcome of the vote on 18 September. He said: “He’s right to be nervous, because on the official polls the Yes vote is 48 per cent and rising.
“A huge number, hundreds of thousands of Labour supporters, are now supporting Yes in this campaign. The Yes support is rising. We’re still behind, we’re still the underdogs, we’ve still got a distance to travel but if we’re making the Prime Minister nervous then we are doing something right.”
He added: “Hundreds of thousands of people who have never been interested in politics in their lives before are now engaged in the most engaging, participative and empowering debate in political history – 180,000 people who have never voted before are registering to vote in this referendum, and incidentally they’re not registering to vote No.
“This is the most empowering story in history, certainly in Scottish history and I suspect in European history.”
Speaking on the Sky News’s The Murnaghan Show, Mr Salmond repeated his call for a televised debate with Mr Cameron, who has said that Scottish-based politicians should front the No campaign during set-piece referendum events.
Mr Salmond said: “Isn’t it significant that Alistair Darling refused to do a debate on Sky television? He’s not doing any more debates. He’s withdrawn from the campaign. I would like him to be replaced by the real leader of the No campaign – David Cameron, the Prime Minister. Why won’t he do a debate on Sky television with me as First Minister?”
The First Minister also accused Labour MP Jim Murphy of “shouting and bawling” at Scots during his 100 Towns in 100 Days speaking tour. Mr Murphy said the Yes campaign had deployed an “organised mob” against him in parts of Scotland after he was pelted with eggs on his tour last week.
The First Minister condemned the incident but called on Scots to boycott events organised by the anti-independence Better Together campaign. He said former Scottish secretary Mr Murphy was being “absolutely and utterly ridiculous”, after the East Renfrewshire MP attempted to link the official Yes campaign to attacks he said had forced him to postpone his tour on police advice.
“I condemn any egg throwing or any intimidation from any side,” Mr Salmond said.
“Somebody was convicted, of course, of online threats against me. Somebody thought his car should be a political weapon. There was a woman, a Yes campaigner, assaulted on the streets of Glasgow.
“I don’t hold press conferences accusing Mr Murphy of orchestrating these events, because I know that would be ridiculous to do so.”
Mr Murphy, however, believes the Yes campaign leadership had failed to do enough to halt abusive behaviour from independence supporters.
He said: “I don’t mind heckles and, do you know what, I don’t even mind people throwing eggs – that’s just a dry cleaning bill.
“But what happened after the first televised debate between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond is that things took a sinister turn. Instead of turning up to crowds of people on all sides there was an organised mob of Yes supporters, facilitated through Yes Scotland and local organisations through websites, Facebook and other social media.”
Mr Murphy said he has been called “a traitor, a quisling, a terrorist and much else that I can’t say” and challenged to several street fights. He added: “I’m not suggesting Mr Salmond has orchestrated this, of course I’m not, but Yes Scotland at a local level have made that happen.”