Northern Ireland

Salmond asks Cameron and Clegg to Scotland to talk independence

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has invited the prime minister and deputy prime minister to Scotland to discuss an independence referendum.

At the start of a British Irish summit in Dublin, Mr Salmond and Nick Clegg spoke for 10 minutes.

A source close to the Scottish first minister described the discussion as "adult and mature".

The discussion took place in the Throne room in Dublin castle.

Speaking after the summit Mr Salmond said felt the two governments could have "constructive dialogue".

"We've got an answerable political mandate, that is an absolute majority in a proportional parliamentary system to conduct a referendum on Scotland's constitutional future," he said.

"Once we publish the Scottish government's consultation document, I'm very happy to meet the prime minister, the deputy prime minister to talk through these things in a positive way.

"Whatever Scotland's constitutional future we're going to be willing and positive contributors to the British Irish Council."

Speaking on proposals for a reduction in corporation tax in Northern Ireland, Mr Salmond said Scottish independence could "offer a solution to it".

"If Scotland were an independent country, Northern Ireland wouldn't have to worry about Scottish corporation tax relative to the rest of the UK," he said.

'Legal ambiguities'

Mr Clegg said the Scottish government had a democratic right to put the issue of independence to the Scottish people, to let them decide.

"We acknowledge and respect that," he said.

"But we have a role, in the British government, to make sure, not least because of all the legal ambiguities, that that process is as clear and decisive as possible.

"I think that is what the Scottish people deserve."

The summit, hosted by Irish Prime Minster Enda Kenny, was attended by leaders from across Britain and Ireland, including Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

It had been planned to take place before Christmas but had to be postponed because of the death of the taoiseach's mother.

The agenda includes the challenge posed by the rise in youth unemployment and cooperation on work to help drug users recover from their addiction.

Scottish independence was not on the formal agenda.

On Thursday, the taoiseach met Mr Cameron in Downing Street to discuss the European financial crisis and the British and Irish governments differences over the case of the murdered lawyer Pat Finucane.

These topics are likely to feature again on Friday when the deputy prime minister makes his first official visit to Dublin.

The Northern Ireland secretary of state Owen Patterson was also at the summit, as well as leaders from Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

More on this story