Scottish independence: Referendum talks date set

Alex Salmond and Michael Moore Alex Salmond and Michael Moore will meet to discuss the Scottish referendum

First Minister Alex Salmond and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore will hold independence referendum talks in Edinburgh next week.

The meeting will take place two days after the Scottish government launches its consultation document setting out its referendum plans on 25 January.

Mr Salmond said his preferred date for the vote was autumn 2014.

The discussions will start the process of establishing the ground rules for carrying out a referendum.

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: "The first minister wrote to the secretary of state on Monday suggesting a meeting next week after the Scottish government have published our consultation document on the referendum next Wednesday, and we are delighted that it will take place on the Friday."

SNP position Unionist position

Wants the referendum in the autumn of 2014

Wants the referendum "sooner rather than later"

Backs a "yes/no" ballot but is open minded on including a second "devo max" question

Wants a one question "yes/no" ballot

Wants 16 and 17-year-olds to be able to vote in the referendum

Backs the status quo with 18 and over able to vote

Wants a special commission to conduct the referendum

Wants the Electoral Commission to oversee the vote

The SNP leader is also keen on speaking with Prime Minister David Cameron and has suggested a meeting as soon as possible after talks with Mr Moore.

Next Friday's discussions will come after almost two weeks of debate between London and Edinburgh on the staging of the ballot.

Mr Cameron had sparked the heated cross-border exchanges by calling for an early vote to settle the constitutional question.

As well as disagreement on the timing, there has been a clash on the referendum question, with Westminster preferring a straightforward yes or no to independence while the Scottish government is open to including an additional option of further devolution, known as "devo max".

While the SNP administration insisted it could hold a referendum on independence for Scotland, the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition at Westminster argued that Holyrood had no power to stage such a vote.

The UK government has also launched its own consultation on proposals it has put forward to temporarily extend Holyrood's powers to enable it to hold a ballot. However, this has been rejected by Mr Salmond's government because of the "strings" attached.

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