SNP MP urges Carmichael-Salmond debate

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Scotland Office Secretary Alistair Carmichael has been challenged to debate Scotland's First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond ahead of the independence referendum in September.

The SNP's Pete Wishart predicted that Alistair Darling, leader of Better Together, will suffer a "slaughter worse than the Bannockburn re-enactment" in a TV head-to head against his leader.

He said it would be better if Prime Minister David Cameron took part - which Mr Salmond is pressing for him to do - but claimed he was "running a mile".

"What we need is you," Mr Wishart told Mr Carmichael. "You could do it, you're good at this stuff", before goading: "What we really need is the organ grinder, not one of the Alistair monkeys to debate with the first minister."

Mr Carmichael dismissed the MP's comments as "pitiful", and told him: "I can't believe that even sounded good when you rehearsed it in the mirror this morning."

He said the SNP could only talk about the terms rather than the substance of the debate "because they know that the force of argument is on the side of those of us who want to remain in the United Kingdom".

Mr Darling and Mr Salmond have agreed to a live TV debate, a proposed date for which is under review, according to STV.

This was the last Scotland Office questions before the referendum, which will take place on 18 September.

Other topics raised during the half-hour session included compensation for delayed passports, energy costs and high speed rail.

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