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Scottish Independence: Salmond and Darling debate

Mr Salmond will debate with Alistair Darling live on TV next month. Picture: TSPL

Mr Salmond will debate with Alistair Darling live on TV next month. Picture: TSPL

  • by LUCY CHRISTIE
 

FIRST MINISTER Alex Salmond will go head-to-head with Better Together leader Alistair Darling in a live TV debate, it has been confirmed.

The debate will be shown on STV and will be aired live from Edinburgh at 8pm on Wednesday the 16th July.

The First Minister has repeatedly called on David Cameron to join him in a public discussion but now says he will take on the leader of the Better Together campaign.

Mr Salmond and Mr Darling have been invited to take part in a live televised debate in Edinburgh on July 16.

The two-hour head-to-head is being organised by STV as part of its coverage of the independence referendum.

The channel wrote to Mr Salmond and Mr Darling on Wednesday asking them to appear in front of an audience of 500 at the Assembly Rooms.

Better Together responded by letter today, accepting the invite on the chairman’s behalf.

The Sunday Herald quoted Ms Sturgeon saying that the First Minister would be willing to debate with Mr Darling as a substitute for the prime minister.

However a spokesman said tonight that his preference remains for a debate with Mr Cameron on July 16.

Ms Sturgeon told the newspaper: “David Cameron should accept the offer of a head-to-head debate with the First Minister, which is the one that all of Scotland wants to see.

“Should the Prime Minister continue to duck this debate, the First Minister is willing to take on Alistair Darling as the Tories’ nominated substitute.”

A spokesman for the First Minister said: “We will continue to pursue David Cameron to agree to the July 16 debate with the First Minister. If he continues to duck from it - the First Minister will take on Alistair Darling shortly after the Commonwealth Games.”

The proposed debate will be hosted by STV political editor Bernard Ponsonby. The audience will feature 500 “specially selected” members of the public representing both sides of the independence debate as well as undecided voters.

Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall said: “Alex Salmond’s TV debates bluff has finally been called. This is a welcome, if long overdue, climb-down by the First Minister.

“The nationalists wanted to make this a Scotland versus England contest. The vast majority of Scots know that’s not what this is about. There are two competing Scottish visions for our country. We offer the best of both worlds, with more powers for Scotland backed up by the strength, security and stability of the larger UK. The nationalists only offer a leap in the dark with separation.

“People in Scotland deserve a TV debate between the leaders of both campaigns about the big issues in this referendum, like what would happen to our pound, pensions and public services.”

SALMOND AGREES TO DARLING TV DEBATE

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