Scottish independence: Cameron in referendum summit with Salmond

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Mr Cameron said he would met Mr Salmond to discuss the referendum
Image caption,
Mr Cameron said he would met Mr Salmond to discuss the referendum

Prime Minister David Cameron is to meet Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond to discuss plans for a referendum on Scottish independence, Number 10 says.

It said arrangements for the meeting would be made "in the coming days".

But a spokesman said Mr Cameron still suggested that Mr Salmond should first have talks with Scottish Secretary Michael Moore on Thursday.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the move saying that it represented "real progress".

She added: "This is a welcome change of view from the Westminster government. When Alex Salmond first proposed a meeting with the PM and deputy PM the initial reaction was to decline it. The fact is they have reflected on that and changed their minds."

Mr Salmond's spokesman said the SNP government's detailed consultation document on the referendum arrangements would be published on Wednesday 25 January.

"Thereafter, meetings can take place hopefully very soon," the spokesman added.

Mr Salmond - who had said Mr Cameron did not accept six earlier invitations to meet - said he would also meet Mr Moore.

His spokesman said he was "very happy to meet with the Scottish secretary".

A war of words between the UK government and the Scottish government had been rumbling since last weekend when Mr Cameron's Tory-Lib Dem coalition decided to increase the pressure on Mr Salmond's SNP to name the date for the referendum on independence.

On Tuesday, as Mr Moore outlined a UK government consultation on the legality of an independence referendum, Mr Salmond announced that he planned to hold the vote in autumn 2014.

A statement issued by Downing Street said: "The prime minister and the deputy prime minister have made it clear they are happy to meet Alex Salmond and arrangements will be made for that in the coming days."

Media caption,
Sir Malcolm Rifkind: "You have to bear in mind that Alex Salmond's technique is whenever he is faced with difficult questions is to actually question the motives of anybody who disagrees with him - they are either anti-Scottish or they are based in London."

But the statement goes on to say that the prime minister also believes the first minister should accept the invitation to meet the Scottish secretary on Thursday, to discuss the consultation process.

Earlier Mr Salmond told BBC Scotland that Westminster policy on the referendum was being led by the "Westminster Quad" of Mr Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne, Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury.

Mr Salmond's spokesman said: "We believe it is to everyone's benefit that these meetings are informed by the published consultation documents of both the UK and Scottish governments, so that Mr Moore, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg can see what our proposals are - and we look forward to the meetings taking place."

Mr Moore had asked Mr Salmond for a meeting to resolve "real legal problems" with the independence referendum.

The UK government has clashed with SNP ministers, after saying the vote will not be legal unless Scotland gets new powers to hold it.

The PM had said he favoured a referendum "as soon as possible" - earlier than 2014.

Westminster is also believed to favour a single question, yes or no to independence, rather than including a third option - so called "devolution max" - for greater powers for Scotland.

'Play full part'

Elsewhere, former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling said he was not interested heading the pro-Union campaign, despite earlier speculation.

Mr Darling, the MP for Edinburgh South West, told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme he would play a full part in making the case to keep the union, but said the campaign would have to be run on a day-to-day basis from Scotland.

He said: "I'm an MP and, out of necessity, I'm in the House of Commons three or four days a week and I've said it's important the campaign is actually run from Scotland."

Mr Darling added: "This is a two-and-a-half year campaign - it makes the American presidential campaign look very short indeed."

Media caption,
Former Chancellor Alistair Darling said an independent Scotland would be in an "absolutely ludicrous position" if it took sterling as its currency

The Labour MP also criticised Mr Salmond's policy on keeping the pound if Scotland became independent, ahead of a plan to join the Euro "when the conditions are right".

The former chancellor said that would put Scotland in the situation where interests rates and monetary policy would be fixed by a foreign country, by the Bank of England.

Mr Salmond said there would be no obstacle to continue to use the pound, which was a "fully convertible currency".

Labour leader Ed Miliband told the BBC's Andrew Marr show that Mr Darling would still play a prominent role in the campaign, but that Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont would head the party's "no" campaign.