Down to the wire: Salmond aims for Scottish independence victory after debate win

Supporters of Scottish independence are aiming for a knife-edge win following Alex Salmond's comprehensive victory in the TV debate on Monday.

An average of 834,000 Scots watched the BBC debate with an extra 1.5 million joining them from the rest of the UK. Seventy-one per cent of those questioned thought Salmond won, compared to 29% who opted for Alistair Darling.

The snap poll found viewers thought Salmond had the more appealing personality and better arguments. He even won among women, who 'Yes' supporters have struggled to get on-side.

"The 'No' campaign had their chance, their bluff has been called," Salmond said.

"People have, I think, overwhelmingly in Scotland now in poll after poll, shown that we want to keep the pound. We're fighting a campaign to get a mandate from the Scottish people on common sense for a common currency.

"That's what won the debate last night and that's the message that's going to resonate over the next three weeks."

In a damaging admission which was seized on by independence supporters, David Cameron admitted he had not actually seen the debate but had relied on news reports instead.

"The reality is that like many MPs, Mr Cameron is not really bothered what goes on in Scotland and if we leave," Angus MacNeil, an SNP MP, said.

"The only thing that bothers him is that he does not want it to happen on his watch.'

A spokesman for Yes Scotland added: "Perhaps David Cameron is distancing himself from the faltering 'No' campaign."

Better Together have made an informal complaint to the BBC about the composition of the audience in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum debate, who seemed far more supportive of Salmond than Darling.

The BBC said the audience was composed of a cross section of voters, with pro- and anti-independence supporters as well as undecideds.

Salmond tackled the currency issue head-on during the debate by saying he had three 'Plan Bs' in the event of Westminster refusing a currency union.

His favourite appeared to be 'sterlingisation' – unilaterally adopting the pound without a currency union. This would deprive Scotland of a central bank or any control over currency and would also see the country refuse to take on its share of UK debt.

Economists warn that could see the credit rating agencies severely penalise Scotland for walking away from the debt and trigger a significant rise in interest rates.

"Everyone in Scotland knows if you don't pay back a debt, it ruins your credit history for years to come," Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, said.

"Such a threat will not just send a shiver through the financial markets, it is a menace to every single family in Scotland."

Gordon Brown will join Darling to highlight the rise in interest rates if Scotland refused to pay its share of the national debt today.

The campaign rally in Dundee is a rare joint appearance for the two men, after Darling accused Brown of "appalling behaviour" during his time in office with him as chancellor.

The economic case for the union will also be bolstered by a letter from over 120 business leaders, including HSBC boss Douglas Flint, warning against independence.

The debate was not all sunshine for the 'Yes' camp. The snap survey found that despite the impression of a Salmond win, it had not shifted voting intentions.

Before the debate 44% supported 'Yes' in the sample, compared to 46% for 'No', with ten per cent undecided. By the end undecided voters constituted eight per cent, with both 'Yes' and 'No' rising one per cent.

The figures do not correlate with national voting intentions, where the 'No' campaign is more popular.