Why Salmond did not dominate the leaders' debate

Big beasts: the leaders' debate included the First Minister
Big beasts: the leaders' debate included the First Minister© Sky News

Alex Salmond is THE big beast of the politics of the Scottish Parliament. His decision to debate with the three other Scottish 'Leaders' was eagerly anticipated.

Many SNP supporters will have assumed that Mr Salmond's experience and political nous would have blown his opponents away. In truth, no-one dominated the 90 minutes broadcast on Sky news.

Jim Murphy took a kicking over the war in Iraq, particularly from an incandescent Alastair Carmichael. The SNP Leader was the subject of a chorus of Unionist disapproval over the ability of an independent Scotland to manage a banking crisis and world recession. The exchanges were crisp and no-one stole a march on their opponents. I thought David Mundell performed strongly and asserted himself much more than in the STV Leaders' debate last Tuesday.

I have become a bit of a convert to 'no applause' in these debates. Clapping interrupts the flow of the exchanges but most obviously from this debate, simply provided party hacks in the audience with the opportunity to behave like performing seals.

The First Minister was on the end of the two best put-downs of the debate. Over his failure to attend a division on the introduction of the minimum wage Jim Murphy opined that Mr Salmond 'had slept for Scotland' that evening. With regard to the papal visit the SNP Leader said he was on the B List of people to meet the pope along with Wayne Rooney. 'Wayne Rooney has more substantive policies for Scotland' said Mr Mundell. Ouch.

This is a busy day for Mr Salmond. He has threatened legal action against the BBC about his exclusion from Thursday's final Prime Ministerial Debate. That's an issue I will raise with him during my Face to Face interview, being broadcast tonight on STV at 10.40pm

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