Scotland ‘is standing at crossroads’

Better Together leader Alistair Darling and First Minister Alex Salmond
Better Together leader Alistair Darling and First Minister Alex Salmond

Scotland is standing at a crossroads ahead of next month’s independence referendum, First Minister Alex Salmond said as he clashed with the man leading the campaign to keep the United Kingdom together.

Mr Salmond took on Better Together leader Alistair Darling in a BBC TV debate – the second such clash between the two men of the referendum campaign.

Both politicians stressed their desire to build a fairer society as they made their opening statements.

But while Mr Salmond argued “more and more Scots” were favouring independence, the former chancellor continued to press him for answers on the impact of leaving the UK.

The First Minister said this was an “extraordinary time” for Scotland with “the eyes of the world” focused on the nation.

He said Scotland had voted on the country’s future twice before – in 1979 when insufficient voters backed a devolved assembly and in 1997, when the ballot that established the Scottish parliament was held.

“Twice before in Scotland’s recent history we’ve stood at the crossroads,” the SNP leader said.

He added: “Three weeks on Thursday we can take matters into Scottish hands. Next to no one wants to go backwards, more and more Scots want to complete the home rule journey.”

Mr Darling said: “The basic difference between Alex Salmond and me is this – my first priority is to build a fairer and better society. His first priority is to create a separate state no matter what the risks and what the cost.