Holyrood Week: preparing for the Salmond Darling indyref debate

SO, finally it is on, a TV debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, six weeks before the referendum.

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Are you counting down the days?

After David Cameron refused, knowing full well it was a trap, The First Minister eventually agreed to go head to head with the Better Together leader.

But what good will it do for those yet to completely make up their mind?

Supporters of both sides will slavishly declare their man the winner and commentators will offer their authoritative opinion of who emerged the victor.

It might be good telly but is a one-off event like this useful in the referendum?

No-one is being asked to vote for Alex Salmond or the SNP. Alistair Darling and Labour are not on the ballot paper either.

Mr Salmond's view of independence differs greatly from others in the Yes campaign and Alistair Darling and David Cameron do not share the same vision of a future UK.

There are far more important debates taking place than this one, debates in community halls, with local MSPs, with campaigners, on a range of issues and ordinary men and women.

One of the problems with politics is politicians. The more exposure they get the less popular they eventually become.

One of the most pleasing aspects of the referendum has been seeing packed halls, with people listening to debates featuring lesser known politicians and campaigners and where the bulk of the event involves questions from the floor.

There is no hiding place in these situations, face to face with a questioner who has yet to place their cross on the ballot sheet.

Also, witnessing people, young and old, getting involved and taking an interest in politics in a way they wouldn't do at a General Election has been encouraging.

That has more to do with discussions with family, friends, colleagues and communities than stage-managed TV showdowns.

While it is undoubtedly fuelled by media coverage and politicians, the real conversation is out there among the people.

So, yes by all means watch the TV debate, it will no doubt be good theatre - we may even learn something.

But I wouldn't be looking to cast my vote on this truly historic referendum based on the perceived outcome of a 90-minute pre-planned, staged airing of well rehearsed and carefully constructed arguments between two already over exposed men.

Of course Salmond, Darling and the other politicians who dominate coverage are important in this process and their positions need to be stated and able to be challenged.

But if you want a real debate, one which you can get involved in, it has to be the one that is going on all around you.

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