The SNP's Deputy Leader writes exclusively for the Times

THREE weeks' tonight Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling will go head to head in a special referendum debate live on STV.

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It will be a great opportunity for everyone in Scotland - particularly those who have yet to make up their minds - to hear the arguments from both the Yes and No campaigns and to have them subjected to rigorous scrutiny by a studio audience.

Of course, it should be David Cameron, rather than Alistair Darling, leading the charge for the No side.

After all, the argument at the heart of the anti-independence campaign is that - even though David Cameron's Tory party has only got one MP in Scotland - he should still have the right to govern us as Prime Minister.

But the fact that he is refusing to take part in open and democratic debate and make that argument head to head with the First Minister, speaks volumes about how popular he thinks it is in Scotland.

So it seems David Cameron will continue to lecture us from afar rather than have the courage of his convictions and debate openly.

Of course, with a referendum on the horizon, Scotland is suddenly on the agenda of a Westminster establishment that usually doesn't pay us too much attention.

A couple of weeks ago, Glasgow was promised some extra cash by the UK government, which was very welcome.

As usual, though, its always a good idea to read the small print - the headline grabbing £500m that was talked about turns out to be spread over 20 years.

The Scottish Government will be happy to match this cash but it pales into insignificance compared to our own current investment in Glasgow.

Just four projects being funded by the Scottish Government right now - the new Southern General, Fastlink, the modernisation of the Subway and, of course the Commonwealth Games - amount to £1.5billion.

Talking of the Commonwealth Games, no column this week would be complete without mention of the athletes' outfits for the opening ceremony.

At the risk of causing controversy, I think they are great. I'm happy to admit that you wouldn't necessarily wear them down the pub but they are colourful and flamboyant and that's what is needed for the fantastic spectacle that will be the opening ceremony.

I've no doubt that we'll all be cheering Team Scotland when they step out wearing them on the big night.

Of course, by the time I write my next column the opening ceremony will be over and the 2014 Commonwealth Games will be well under way.

So let me take this opportunity to wish everyone concerned with the organisation of the Games - and each and very one of our talented athletes - the very best of luck.

A lot of hard work has gone into making these the best Commonwealth Games ever and I have no doubt that Glasgow is going to shine. We are the best city in the world and for a couple of weeks anyway, the world is going to know it.

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