Oil, childcare and mortgages: Last hurrah for Scottish independence campaigns as leaders go head to head on Mumsnet

Emma Haslett
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Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling at an earlier debate. The two went head to head for the last time today (Source: Getty)

The two faces of the Scottish independence campaigns got their final chance to go head-to-head today - on women's networking site Mumsnet.

While Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling kept references to "Darling Son" and "Darling Daughter" to a minimum, they did broach topics including the impact separation would have on mortgages and childcare.

There was nit-picking over a claim by Darling that Standard Life has threatened to move its headquarters south of the border, and things nearly came to a head when he was accused of scaremongering - but the debate got more serious when the pair were pressed for details on their policies.

On childcare

Salmond has previously said he would like to offer free childcare for children up to school age, although he admitted during the debate that if the Scottish National Party doesn't win a 2016 election, he won't have a lot of control over this.

However, he added that there is a "broad consensus" childcare should be offered to those who need it.

On why we're "better together"

Prettybird wanted to know why the union is "better". "I haven't been able to find any concrete examples other than 'we're bigger and we share risk'," she complained.

Darling kept his response short:

Three examples. More jobs, energy prices are lower than they would otherwise be, higher public spending on schools and hospitals and other public services and the price of the weekly shop is less here than it is in most smaller countries. It's common sense.

(Which is four examples - but who's counting?)

On a currency union

Tori23 accused Salmond of being "infinitely frustrating": "AD did say you can use the pound but not in a currency union... credit us with more intelligence".

Salmond defended his argument:

The argument for a common currency is based on the common sense argument that England is Scotland's biggest export market and Scotland is England's second biggest export market after the USA. It would therefore be in both countries' interests to share financial assets and liabilities in a sensible and cooperative way - a new partnership based on equality.

Later, Darling had a stab at explaining what, in his view, would happen if Scotland kept the pound:

The crucial point is that it would be somebody else's currency, leaving us [meaning Scotland] with no control over interest rates. On top of that countries like Panama or Hong Kong have to hold huge reserves in case they run out of money. It's no accident that these countries have minimal public services. Nothing like what we already have here. Crucially, Scotland would have no central bank. That would cost us tens of thousands of job in the financial services industry. If this really is Alex's Plan B, it is mad.

Come on, chaps - let's keep it civil...

On wealth

Over the past five years "Scotland would have been £8.3bn better off as an independent country - so there is no need for an independent Scotland to increase taxes", insisted Salmond.

In an independent Scotland mortgage rates will continue to be based on the interest rate set by the Bank of England, which in a Sterling Area will be exactly the same for Scotland as for the rest of the UK, just as it is now.

On energy stores

No one really knows how much oil there is in the North Sea - estimates vary from 10 billion barrels (that's the Office of Budget Responsibility) to 24 billion barrels (Oil and Gas UK, which the SNP uses). Even if you go by estimates from Wood Group chief executive Sir Ian Wood, said Salmond, that would "imply a wholesale value of one trillion pounds sterling over the next thirty-five years or so".

That is one thousand, thousand million, which sounds to me like an asset of substantial proportions. If the government revenue from that is say 20% that suggests an average tax take of around £6 billion per year, more than £1,000 for every man, woman and child in Scotland. Most countries would consider that an amazing advantage

Other things we learned:

  • The children of Scottish and British couples will not have to apply for dual citizenship
  • A "realistic" date for Scotland to become fully independent is 24 March 2016. So Scotland will be an Aries...
  • If there's a Yes vote, the Queen will continue to be Scotland's monarch

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