Scottish Independence: Alex Salmond To Meet Michael Moore In Edinburgh

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Alex Salmond will meet Michael Moore in Edinburgh on Monday
Alex Salmond will meet Michael Moore in Edinburgh on Monday

Alex Salmond and Scottish secretary Michael Moore will meet in Edinburgh on Monday for talks about the Scotland independence referendum, with the first minister stating his determination for the terms of the ballot to be decided north of the border.

Both the SNP administration in Edinburgh and the UK government at Westminster have launched separate consultations on the referendum.

Coalition ministers have said a vote on whether Scotland should remain in the UK should take place sooner rather than later.

But Salmond's spokesman said ahead of today's meeting that there was a "broad agreement" that holding the vote on the country's constitutional future in autumn 2014 was "the right timescale".

A spokesman for 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."

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.

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 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.

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'."

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."

Johann Lamont, Scottish Labour Leader said: "This cannot be just another photo opportunity or box-ticking exercise for the First Minister - we need meaningful discussions on a fair, transparent and decisive referendum.

"There is a real chance to end the games and bring some certainty to this process so that all of Scotland can have confidence in our referendum and move on to the debate over the issues.

"Too often, the referendum seems to have been treated like the personal plaything of politicians and it is far too important for that."

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