TIME Ukraine

Ukraine: Russia’s Aid Convoy Is a ‘Direct Invasion’

A Russian border guard opens a gate into the Ukraine for the first trucks heading into the country from the Russian town of Donetsk, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Aug. 22, 2014.
A Russian border guard opens a gate into the Ukraine for the first trucks heading into the country from the Russian town of Donetsk, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Aug. 22, 2014. Sergei Grits—AP

But Moscow warns against interfering with the trucks' crossing

Russia sent dozens of aid trucks into eastern Ukraine on Friday without the Ukrainian government’s approval, the Associated Press reports. This show of defiance, which a Ukrainian security chief called a “a direct invasion,” has increased fears of conflict between Russian forces and the Ukrainian military.

A witness told Reuters that 70 of the 260 white trucks left a Russian convoy that had been stalled at the border for over a week. The breakaway column crossed the border and headed for the rebel-held area of Luhansk, accompanied by some Ukrainian separatist fighters.

The convoy was being held at the border while Kiev and Moscow negotiated the terms of the crossing and discussed the trucks’ contents and the role the International Committee for the Red Cross should play. Both sides had agreed the Red Cross would accompany the vehicles, but an unnamed Ukrainian official told the Interfax news agency that the 70-strong convoy traveled without ICRC escort.

Ukrainian and Western officials are worried Russia may use the convoy as an excuse for Russia to directly intervene in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. Moscow, however, has dismissed this as preposterous, saying instead that Friday’s border crossing happened after it had grown impatient with Ukrainian delays.

“All excuses to delay sending aid have been exhausted,” said Russia’s foreign ministry in a statement. “The Russian side has taken the decision to act.” The ministry further warned at any attempts to disrupt the convoy. A spokesperson for the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin has been told of the convoy’s advance.

Russia has repeatedly denied accusations that it has been sending weapons and experts to help separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. The conflict has intensified around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk recently, with fatalities rapidly rising. All told, the struggle between Ukrainian troops and rebels loyal to Russia for control of eastern Ukraine has been raging for four months. The death toll stands at over 2,000, and many residents are stranded without food, medicine or clean water.

[AP]

TIME Middle East

Poll: 92% of Israeli Jews Say Operation Protection Edge Was Justified

Talks resume in Cairo, as fresh 3-day truce holds in Gaza
A general view of a Merkava tanks near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, 11 August 2014. Abir Sultan—EPA

A poll of Israeli public opinion in the aftermath of the ground invasion of Gaza finds overwhelming approval of the military operation among Israeli Jews.

A total of 92% of Israeli Jews agreed that Operation Protective Edge was justified, according to the monthly Peace Index poll published Tuesday by the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent think-tank, and Tel Aviv University. The survey found that even amongst self-described left-leaning Israeli Jews, 67% thought the operation was justified.

But Jewish Israelis weren’t so unified on the question of whether the Israel Defense Forces used the appropriate amount of firepower in its operation. While 48% thought the amount was just right, some 45% think too little firepower was used. 6% felt the IDF used too much.

Published two weeks after Israel announced the withdrawal of all ground troops in Operation Protective Edge from Gaza on Aug. 5, the poll found that just 13% of Israeli Arabs believed the government had achieved most or all of its goals, compared with 44% of Israeli Jews.

As Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet to discuss a cease-fire the real question is whether peace will be brought to the troubled region. Sadly 71% of Israeli Jews thought chances were low that Operation Protective Edge would lead to three or more years of quiet from Gaza. Amongst Israeli Arabs the figure was 49%.

 

TIME Iraq

ISIS to U.S.: ‘We Will Drown All of You in Blood’

The militants are on the defensive following a series of successful U.S. airstrikes

The Sunni extremist group that is ravaging large swaths of northern Iraq has warned it will attack Americans “in any place” should U.S. airstrikes kill any of its members, Reuters reports.

American airstrikes began earlier this month in an attempt to help thousands of people—members of the Yazidi, an ethnic minority in the region—who were trapped on a mountain range by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). President Barack Obama formally told Congress on Sunday that he had sanctioned additional air raids, though he said they would be limited. The new strikes, requested by the Iraqi government, were intended to help Iraqi and Kurdish security forces who had been battling the militants for control of the strategic Mosul Dam. Aided by U.S. air support, these troops successfully recaptured it on Aug. 18.

U.S. Central Command said at least 14 airstrikes were conducted on Sunday, and had successfully damaged or destroyed ISIS vehicles and one of its checkpoints. The group’s latest missive might reflect its anger towards the U.S., whose aerial support has allowed the Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim some of the territory that ISIS had seized in a lightning offensive in June.

Reuters adds that the purported ISIS video shows an image of an American, who was beheaded during the U.S.-led war in Iraq that ended in 2011. The 45-second film also shows people being shot by snipers and vehicles being blown up. Near the start of the clip, the group’s black flag appears next to an American one. A message, in English, then flashes up: “We will drown all of you in blood.” A crude splatter of blood then appears on the U.S. flag to emphasize the point.

The militants have focused on territorial gains in parts of eastern Syria and northern Iraq, claiming them in its bid to establish a caliphate, or an Islamic state. But unlike al-Qaeda, which deemed this off-shoot too extreme, ISIS has not yet directly attacked the West.

[Reuters]

TIME Israel-Gaza conflict

Israeli Left Finds Itself Isolated After Gaza War

Polls show that most Israelis supported the launch of Operation Protective Edge

The past month has not been an easy one for left-leaning organizations in Israel. A July poll by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), a non-partisan Israeli think-tank, found that 95% of Israelis believed Operation Protective Edge was justly launched. More than two weeks into the fighting support remained unwavering.

Inside the country, only a few groups have been vocal in their condemnation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Adalah are all notable examples. But perhaps the loudest has been human rights group B’Tselem. Founded in 1989, it’s been persistent in its criticism of the Gaza conflict.

Running across its homepage are the names of all children killed in the recent Gaza war. B’Tselem had hoped to broadcast this list on Israeli radio but the clip was blocked by the Israeli Broadcast Authority (IBA), which said the advert’s content was “politically controversial.” On Thursday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel’s Supreme Court had overturned B’Tselem’s appeal against IBA’s decision.

That added to what has been a difficult month for the non-governmental organization. Hagai El-Ad, B’Tselem’s director, told TIME: “The last month has been unprecedented… We received death threats, people told the police we should be accused of treason, we faced attempts of physical violence.” After repeatedly filing complaints to the police, El-Ad says B’Tselem was forced to hire its own security.

“The Israeli public has veered to the right,” says Dan Goldenblatt, Israeli co-director at Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiatives, a non-profit think-tank that works to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “It’s more nationalistic, more racist, more xenophobic, more anti-Arab.”

B’Tselem’s situation worsened last week after the National Civilian Service removed the group from Israel’s national service volunteer list, though this decision was put on hold on Sunday pending an investigation. If upheld, it would mean that those eligible to opt for national service over military conscription won’t be able to work for the organization.

Sar-Shalom Jerbi, the National Civilian Service’s administration director, said the original decision was made because B’Tselem “crossed the line in wartime [by] campaigning and inciting against the state of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces, which is the most moral of armies.”

Despite this backdrop, groups like B’Tselem are unlikely to be silenced. Abraham Bell, Professor of Law at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and Goldenblatt are united in agreement that the left is usually critical of the government over incursions into Gaza, even if that’s an unpopular stance to take at the time.

Although strongly critical of Israel during the war, B’Tselem has also condemned the role Hamas has played in the conflict. A statement on its website contains the line in bold: “Hamas did, indeed, violate international humanitarian law during the fighting.” Though this sentiment is undoubtedly shared by its detractors, they might not agree with B’Tselem’s succeeding paragraph which begins: “However, Israel is wrong in shirking responsibility for the consequences of its actions and in laying them at Hamas’ door.”

Yariv Oppenheimer, the general director of Peace Now, another NGO which was founded in 1978 and campaigns for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, is also critical of Hamas, telling TIME: “We think that Hamas is not a partner for peace… [it's] a terrorist organization, officially it doesn’t recognize the right of Israel to exist.” Oppenheimer adds however that “Israel should not just criticize Hamas but speak to other Palestinian groups like the Palestinian Authority… We should say to our neighbors that people who come with peace will be able to reach an agreement with us.”

Peace Now and B’Tselem’s refusal to censure Hamas as strongly as the Israeli government perhaps explains why they’re seen as lenient toward the organization. Bell told TIME: “I haven’t done a comprehensive survey but as far as I can see, most of the [left-wing] criticism has been towards the government… B’Tselem’s criticism has been almost exclusively towards the Israeli government.”

Though B’Tselem might be perceived as unduly critical of the government, it hasn’t gone unheard. “We’ve seen a surge in public interest in B’Tselem’s work and public statements,” El-Ad says, though he adds: “I understand that many people are upset with our statements and interest doesn’t equal support.”

The same can’t be said for Peace Now. The group has declined in the decades since its founding. Unlike B’Tselem, Peace Now has been fairly quiet on the current conflict. “I admit that in the last few weeks it was very difficult to have a clear position on [Israel's] right to respond [in Gaza],” Oppenheimer says. He adds however that the group held a protest against the war in Tel Aviv on Saturday that attracted over 10,000 people by his estimate.

For Oppenheimer, a shift in public mood is to blame for their dwindling support. “In the past people were much more optimistic and romantic about the idea of peace,” he says. “People in Israel have suffered a lot of disappointment over the last decade.”

Though Bell agrees people are disappointed he blames the left-wing organizations for their own failure. “Groups like Peace Now, they managed to implement the major parts of their platform and it didn’t go as expected,” he says.

Left-wing groups originally pushed for negotiations with the Palestinian leadership to achieve territorial compromises, Bell explains, and then hopefully a lasting peace deal. When talks failed, the leftist groups called for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, which also failed to bring peace. “It’s not clear to Israelis that accommodation or unilateral withdrawal will bring peace or international support,” says Bell. In the IDI’s latest peace poll just 3.2% of Israelis believe negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank, will lead to future peace.

B’Tselem’s El-Ad suggests such views are partly the result of the government’s stance. “There has been a huge effort by the political leadership to sell to the public that there’s no partner for a politically agreed solution,” he says. “The strategy that’s being pitched is the only way to deal with Gaza is force.”

Bell, however, is not convinced. “It’s very hard in Israel to control the public opinion from a governmental position,” he notes. “I think the [government's] rhetoric is the result, not the cause [of people's loss of faith].” Nevertheless Bell doesn’t think this is the end of Israel’s left. “I don’t think [these groups] are ever going to truly disappear, I think that people are naturally optimistic.”

TIME United Kingdom

Cliff Richard’s Home Searched in Relation to Sex Offense

Police searched home in relation to an alleged historic sex offence

A house belonging to one of the U.K.’s most famous singers is being searched by police in relation to an alleged sex offense from the 1980s, the BBC reports.

Cliff Richard, 73, is among Britain’s most successful singers, having sold 21.5 million singles in a career spanning over five decades, with hits including The Young Ones and Summer Holiday. He was not at home when police entered the property and no arrests have been made.

The allegation involves a boy under 16 and dates from the 1980s, a police spokesperson said. Richard issued a statement calling the allegations “completely false.”

“Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the false allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen,” he said. “However, the police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear to the press. I am not presently in the UK but it goes without saying that I will cooperate fully should the police wish to speak to me. Beyond stating that today’s allegation is completely false it would not be appropriate to say anything further until the police investigation has concluded.”

The search is not related to Operation Yewtree, a U.K. police enquiry into historic sex offences allegedly committed by British celebrities, launched in the wake of revelations that the late DJ Jimmy Savile had abused dozens of girls. However officers from Operation Yewtree, which has arrested 18 showbusiness associates, have been informed.

Richard, born Harry Webb, is the only musician to have had a U.K. top five album or higher in each decade dating back to the 1950s. Knighted in 1995, the singer released his 100th album in 2013.

[BBC]

TIME Ukraine

Russian Aid Convoy Keeps on Trucking Toward Ukraine

A Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for residents in rebel eastern Ukrainian regions moves along a road about 30 miles from Voronezh, Russia, Aug. 14, 2014.
A Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for residents in rebel eastern Ukrainian regions moves along a road about 30 miles from Voronezh, Russia, Aug. 14, 2014. Yuri Kochetko—EPA

Kiev has now agreed to let the trucks enter Ukraine, but a full agreement on the crossing has yet to be reached

A Russian convoy numbering close to 300 vehicles has resumed its journey towards separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine, laden with what Russia says is humanitarian aid supplies for the people of Ukraine.

Traveling at 50 miles per hour the aid convoy left a military base in Voronezh, Russia before dawn, the New York Times reports. The vehicles had been held there for over a day following outcry from the Ukrainian government, and as Western officials voiced suspicions they could be cover for a potential invasion.

But it now appears that the convoy will be permitted to enter Ukraine. The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, said Wednesday the trucks could cross following inspections by officials from Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Russia says the dispatch of aid, which were dispatched early Tuesday, was intended to counter the escalating humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine. Moscow said the trucks, equipped with 649 tons of water and 340 tons of canned meat, were intended to help Ukrainians in areas like Luhansk where heavy fire has cut off water and electricity supplies. Residents are also without communication as phone lines have been hit.

Moscow and Kiev haven’t yet reached a complete agreement over the convoy’s crossing, however. If the vehicles cross at Izvarino, an eastern Ukrainian town close to Luhansk which isn’t under Ukrainian control, the existing agreement between Russia and Ukraine would need to be rewritten. Both sides had originally decided that the trucks would cross further north at a Ukrainian-held border crossing.

Poroshenko’s government authorized a similar Ukrainian aid convoy this week, in response to Moscow’s actions. Lorries loaded with supplies left Kiev, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk Thursday bound for Starobelsk in eastern Ukraine.

The West has regarded the Russian convoy with deep suspicion. Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the UN said if Russia acted unilaterally in its humanitarian mission, it would “be viewed as an invasion.” On Monday NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Reuters that there was a “high probability” of Russia invading Ukraine, potentially “under the guise of a humanitarian operation.”

Russia meanwhile insists that it’s working with the Red Cross despite their protestations otherwise. “All this is going on in complete coordination with and under the aegis of the Red Cross,” said Dmitri S. Peskov, spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin to reporters.

Both convoys, Ukrainian and Russian, will arrive amidst escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine. The latest figures from the UN place the death toll at 2,086 since fighting began mid-April. Over half of these fatalities occurred in the past two weeks.

[NYT]

TIME Iraq

Everything You Need to Know About the Yazidis

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar west of Mosul, take refuge at Dohuk province, Aug. 7, 2014.
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar west of Mosul, take refuge at Dohuk province, Aug. 7, 2014. Ari Jalal—Reuters

Meet Iraq's secretive, persecuted sect under siege by militants from ISIS

On the peaks of the Sinjar mountains, 50,000 members of the Yazidi people are facing a slow death from dehydration and exposure. Below them waits the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a militant extremist group who will kill any that descend.

The news Thursday night that President Barack Obama has authorized air strikes against ISIS—strikes that started Friday—may offer little relief. Already several dozen Yazidis have died from lack of water and searing temperatures that reach 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Among the dead are 56 children, a UNICEF spokesperson told TIME.

“The Yazidis are one of the longest surviving ancient religions or sects in the world,” said Farwaz Gerges, a professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics.

Despite this, precious little is known about them. And that’s how the Yazidis prefer it.

“They are a secretive community who pass on oral traditions—much of which is unknown to outsiders,” said Hayder al-Khoei, an associate fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Program. Intermarriage with non-Yazidis is forbidden, and it is impossible to convert to their religion. “To be a Yazidi one must be born into a Yazidi family.”

Though a Kurdish sect and religion, the Yazidi faith has borrowed from multiple traditions. It was founded in the 11th century by a sheik from the major Islamic dynasty, the Umayyad.

“They have borrowed from the Persian tradition, Zoroastrianism (a pre-Islamic religion), Christianity—they believe that Jesus was one of the most important prophets—and Islam,” Gerges said. “It is one of the most complex religions in the world.” The Yazidis believe in reincarnation, perform baptisms, circumcisions and animal sacrifices.

The name “Izidis” literally translates to “worshippers of God.”

The sect is tiny. There are just 700,000 Yazidis worldwide, according to Gerges. Of this number, 600,000 are concentrated in northern Iraq, with their heartland in the town of Sinjar. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands people, Yazidis among them, were forced to flee the Sinjar region as ISIS routed Kurdish forces there.

The Yazidis can’t hope for mercy from ISIS. “Unlike Christians, they’re not even given the option of paying a tax to live under [ISIS'] protection,” al-Khoei said. “[ISIS] believes they are ‘devil worshippers’ who must either be slaughtered or convert to Islam.”

The Yazidis are no strangers to persecution. They have been harassed for centuries based on the misconception they worship the devil. Their faith, al-Khoei said, is dualist not satanic. They believe “that good and evil, God and Satan are part of the same divine creation.”

The Yazidis are monotheistic to an extent, believing that one supreme being known as Yasdan created the earth helped by seven angels. The most important of these is Malak Tawous, the peacock angel or king to whom the Yazidis pray to five times a day. His other name Shaytan means “devil” in Arabic. This, above all else, is what earned them the moniker of devil worshippers.

Though Sunnis and Shi’ites alike call them Satanists, they don’t attack them. But ISIS, which al-Khoei said is on “a genocidal rampage,” won’t tolerate them in its self-declared Islamic caliphate.

This is bleak news for the Yazidis who are already suffering from depleted ranks. “Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, we estimate that 15% of the community left for areas like Europe,” Gerges said.

The Yazidis were targeted by al-Qaeda in Iraq and similar groups following Saddam Hussein’s ousting. In 2007, 800 were killed in a series of bomb blasts, hastening the exodus. “The community is terrified that the migration of young Yazidis… will have major problems for the future survival of the people,” Gerges said.

Right now, the future survival of the Yazidis on the Sinjar mountains is in doubt. Scant supplies are reaching the them via U.S. and Iraqi airdrops or from neighboring areas. An eyewitness told the BBC that the Yazidis are currently subsisting on one meal a day. Unless ISIS pulls back or is forced to flee, the mountains, the supposed final resting place of Noah’s Ark, could perform the same role for many more Yazidis.

“We haven’t been able to access them,” said Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for UNICEF. “Getting to [the mountains] by car is very unsafe, it is blockaded by [ISIS] militants.”

TIME uk

Prince William’s New Job? Medevac Helicopter Pilot

RAF Search And Rescue Teams Practice Ahead Of The Royal Wedding
In this image provided by the Ministry of Defence, Prince William takes the controls of a Sea King helicopter on April 14, 2011 in Holyhead, Wales. Handout—Getty Images

Prince William will begin training this fall and start work spring 2015

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, a former chopper pilot in the Royal Air Force, is taking a job as an air ambulance helicopter pilot next spring, according to Kensington Palace.

Prince William will begin training for the new role this fall and winter before working with the East Anglian Air Ambulance in England. The Duke will fly both day and night shifts, starting as a co-pilot before he may qualify as a helicopter commander.

Better known for his marriage to Kate Middleton than for his flying abilities, the palace added that though this will be his main job, he’ll continue his domestic and overseas visits that have been so widely documented, with his wife or son in tow. Prince William will also continue working for his various charities.

Though he is entitled to a salary, the Duke will be donating his medevac income to charity. He is believed to be the first member of the Royal Family in direct succession to have an employment contract with a civilian employer. The job will draw on Prince William’s experience as a search and rescue pilot for the RAF, for which he flew over 150 operations.

 

 

TIME Scotland

Pro-Independence Leader Falters in First Scottish Independence Debate

Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland talks the media after debating with Alistair Darling chairman of Better Together in a televised event from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on August 5, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, talks the media after debating with Alistair Darling chairman of Better Together in a televised event from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on August 5, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Jeff J Mitchell—Getty Images

Despite a confident opening, Scotland's First Minister floundered after failing to say what currency an independent Scotland would use

The first major televised debate of the Scottish independence referendum campaign took place on Tuesday night, with Scotland’s pro-independence leader Alex Salmond faltering on key questions.

On September 18, residents of Scotland aged 16 and older will be able to vote “yes” or “no” in a referendum that will pose the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

With six weeks to go before the vote, Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, went head-to-head with Alistair Darling, a Scottish MP for the Labour Party and the leader of the unionist Better Together campaign. The two-hour debate took place at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow and was only broadcast on the Scottish television channel STV. Viewers elsewhere in the U.K. were told to tune into a live stream on STV’s website. Unfortunately, the service quickly crashed, infuriating people across the U.K.

Those who managed to watch the debate saw Salmond come down hard on Westminster, the seat of the British parliament, which he claimed didn’t represent Scotland’s interests. He told the 350 audience members that Scotland could easily be a successful independent country, adding: “For more than half of my life, Scotland has been governed by parties the we didn’t elect at Westminster… They are the same people who… are telling us that this country can’t run our own affairs.”

Calling the referendum “the opportunity of a lifetime,” Salmond insisted “no one, absolutely no one, will do a better job of running Scotland than the people who live and work in Scotland.”

Darling cut a less emotive figure. The former U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer—the country’s finance minister—told listeners the vote concerned their future and warned against patriotism clouding their judgment. “There are times that, for the love of our family and the love of our country, it’s sometimes best to say ‘no’—not because we can’t, but simply because it is not the best thing to do,” Darling said.

Advising caution, Darling added: “In six weeks’ time, we will make the biggest decision that we’ve ever made here in Scotland—and remember this, if we decide to leave, there is no going back—there’s no second chance.”

Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland and Alistair Darling, chairman of Better Together take part in a live television debate hosted by Bernard Ponsonby at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on August 5, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Jeff J Mitchell—Getty Images

Though Salmond started the debate with confidence, Scotland’s Herald newspaper reported that he then “dawdled downhill” with a performance that was “woeful” compared to Darling’s more spirited one. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Darling emerged as the winner Tuesday night with 56% of the 512 people surveyed by ICM for the Guardian newspaper declaring him victorious.

Much of the debate centered on questions over Scotland’s financial future. On February 13, the U.K.’s current Chancellor, George Osborne, said that if Scotland left its 307-year-old union with England and leaves the U.K., it would be unable to keep the pound. This proved a sticking point in the debate, as Salmond began to falter when Darling persistently questioned him over his plans for Scotland’s economy.

Again and again, Darling asked Salmond “what is plan B?” But the First Minister only said he was “in favor of keeping the pound sterling” over the euro, despite being booed by at least one audience member.

“Any eight-year-old can tell you the flag of a country, the capital of a country and its currency,” said Darling. “I presume the flag is the Saltire [Scotland's national flag], I assume our capital will still be Edinburgh, but you can’t tell us what currency we will have.” Darling added that the E.U. might not allow Scotland to re-join if they become independent, meaning they couldn’t adopt the euro.

Salmond, for his part, repeatedly asked Darling to accept that Scotland could be a successful independent country, claiming that it has contributed £8 billion ($13.5 billion) to the U.K. treasury. Blair Jenkins, chief executive of the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign, declared the debate, “a clear win for the Yes campaign—a positive, optimistic and visionary case presented by the First Minister against another dose of negativity and scaremongering from Mr. Darling.”

Yet the debate failed to impress the Scottish newspaper The Scotsman. In an editorial, they wrote: “For a debate that looked too long on paper it was actually surprising how few topics got a reasonable airing. If time allocated is any indicator of interest or concern among the public then there is no doubt that the post-independence currency is the stand-out issue.”

Salmond’s performance on that topic will likely have disappointed his supporters who were hoping for a strong victory that could boost their low polling figures. The most recent poll says independence has just 34% of voter support. Those championing Scotland’s independence will be hoping that in the next debate, due to take place later this month, their leader can turn things around.

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