Scottish Independence: Salmond To Hold Talks With Michael Moore On Monday
Alex Salmond has again insisted that plans for an independence referendum must have "no strings attached" from Westminster.
The Scottish First Minister will have talks with Michael Moore from the UK Government on the issue on Monday.
Ahead of that, a spokesman for the Scottish National Party leader restated his determination for terms of the ballot to be decided north of the border.
Coalition ministers have said a vote on whether Scotland should remain in the UK should take place sooner rather than later.
The SNP administration in Edinburgh does not want the vote on the country's constitutional future to be held until autumn 2014.
Mr Salmond's spokesman said he believed there was "broad agreement" that was "the right timescale".
The First Minister and the Scottish Secretary will meet in Edinburgh tomorrow morning.
A spokesman for Mr Moore said: "The Secretary of State is optimistic that we can quickly sort out the process side of the referendum and then get on to the real debate about Scotland's future."
And Mr Salmond's spokesman said: "Monday's meeting is a welcome step forward - and a much better approach by the UK Government than the unfortunate attempt by the Prime Minister at the start of the year to impose the timing and terms of the referendum from Westminster."
There could be disagreement over the Scottish Government's refusal to rule out including a third option of greatly enhanced powers for Holyrood - "devo-max" - on the ballot paper.
Mr Salmond has already said he wants to ask voters: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"
The Scottish Government's consultation includes the possibility of asking voters if they back maximum devolution, while
Westminster politicians have repeatedly said the referendum should be a straight choice between independence or staying in the UK.
The Scottish Government consultation also includes the possibility of allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.
The spokesman for the First Minister said: "We have put our detailed proposals for the referendum out to consultation - so that matters such as a possible 'devo-max' option, and votes for 16 and 17-year-olds, can be discussed and decided with people across Scottish society."
The UK Government has repeatedly insisted Holyrood does not have the power to stage an independence vote, and is carrying out its own consultation on proposals to temporarily extend the Scottish Parliament's powers, using a Section 30 order, to allow it to conduct the referendum.
Mr Salmond's spokesman said: "We are entirely confident that, within our current powers, the Scottish Parliament can hold a consultative referendum on independence, but we have consistently said that we have no difficulty with a Section 30 order to address the UK Government's concerns.
"The key point - which we believe should be a point of consensus with UK ministers - is that the terms of the referendum must be decided in Scotland.
"The consultation which the Scottish Government have published provides for this democratic imperative - and the Electoral Reform Society Scotland agree that any 'legal mandate' must have 'no strings attached', so that Scottish Parliament can 'call a referendum at a time, and with a question (or questions) of their choosing'."
Mr Moore's spokesman said that a "lot of progress has been made in the past few weeks" on the matter.
He said: "The Scottish Government has helpfully clarified a number of details, including its preference for a single question and the involvement of the Electoral Commission.
"Hopefully, we can agree on Monday that this is the preferred route to a fair and legal referendum. It gives both Parliaments a role to play and demonstrates that both of Scotland's governments will work together to deliver a referendum that is legal, fair and decisive. This is what the people of Scotland expect for the most important decision we will ever take."
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "It seems like the only strings Alex Salmond wants to attach are his own.
"It is inexplicable that his draft bill published only a few weeks ago waters down the role of the Electoral Commission to the extent that he doesn't want it to rule on the wording of the question.
"We do not regard a fair, transparent referendum with independent scrutiny as having strings attached.
"They are the basic rules of engagement for any democratic referendum."
Meanwhile, Mr Salmond has responded to reports he is meeting Prime Minister David Cameron in the next few days for talks, saying a date is "to be confirmed".
A spokesman for the First Minister said: "While the date for the First Minister to meet the Prime Minister to discuss Scotland's referendum is to be confirmed, we look forward to it taking place in early course, once the First Minister has met the Secretary of State for Scotland on Monday.
"It is clear there is growing consensus that the proposed timetable for Scotland's referendum is entirely reasonable, however only this weekend it is obvious there are divergent views within the Westminster coalition on their position in regard to more powers - with the Prime Minister refusing to offer any further powers and the Secretary of State for Scotland saying Scotland could get greater financial powers. If that is a genuine offer it should be articulated clearly to the people of Scotland at this stage.
"What is clear is that there will be a referendum and the people of Scotland will get the chance to vote for independence.
"We are currently seeking the views of the public through the Your Scotland, Your Referendum consultation process, which has had an excellent response from the Scottish public and civic Scotland so far.
"It is wise for politicians to listen to the views of the people - already, there have been over 1,500 responses to our consultation - and that is what the Scottish Government will do."