Scotland media battle on knife edge in run up to vote

08 August 2014 -


With questions swirling over who actually won this week’s head-to-head on STV, one thing’s for certain: politicians’ failure to properly answer questions is still a turnoff for the public

Will Edwards

The big political story in Scotland this week was the long-awaited televised debate on the prospect of independence. However, even after the dust settled, it was less than clear who managed to come out on top.

On Tuesday evening, Labour MP Alistair Darling and Scottish first minister Alex Salmond took part in a live debate to thrash out some critical issues and, hopefully, win over voters prior to the crucial referendum on 18 September. At one stage, there were 920,000 viewers of the STV-hosted face-off, with more trying to watch it on the broadcaster’s website… to the extent that the site actually crashed due to the high-volume demand.

Over the debate’s two hours, all the major arguments got a look in – from the economy, to staying in the EU while keeping the pound, to the economic viability of North Sea oil. On one hand, Salmond’s deputy minister Nicola Sturgeon told STV: “I definitely think my side won”. On the other, a Guardian/ICM poll just after the debate suggested that Darling won by 56% to 44%. However, the sample for that poll was reportedly confined to just 512 people.

Cross-party think tank Demos, which tracked viewers’ sentiment on Twitter, was less convinced there was a clear winner, saying: “It wasn't cheers but boos that filled this new digital arena, and our analysis suggests people were turned off for one of the oldest reasons of all – neither politician was keen to answer the question.”

In their last few statements, the debaters made it clear what they thought was at stake: Darling said there was “no going back” after a Yes vote, and Salmond responded with: “voting yes is a vote for hope and ambition over fear”.

The latest Ipsos MORI polls show that more people are likely to vote to stay in the UK. If that is true, Alex Salmond has just six weeks to come up with something other than “hope”, to persuade the public that an Independent Scotland is the right choice.

Will Edwards is managing director of media-training consultancy Bluewood Training

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