Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Salmond to debate with No campaigners, says Sturgeon

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Media captionNicola Sturgeon said Mr Salmond would debate with the No to independence campaigners

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond will publicly debate with key figures in the No to independence campaign, his deputy Nicola Sturgeon has said.

But she added that the SNP leader remained keen to go head-to-head with Prime Minister David Cameron.

Ms Sturgeon made her comments on the BBC's Daily Politics show.

Mr Cameron dismissed suggestions that he should take part in a televised debate with Mr Salmond in the run up to the referendum next year.

Voters in Scotland will go to the polls on Thursday, 18 September, 2014, when they will be asked the straight "yes/no" question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Daily Politics presenter Andrew Neil asked Ms Sturgeon if she could give a commitment that Mr Salmond would debate with new Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, and head of Better Together, Alistair Darling.

She replied: "I am sure that between now and the referendum Alex Salmond will debate with both of those people and many others, making the positive case for independence. There is no issue or question about that."

But Ms Sturgeon added: "The real question is why will David Cameron not agree to debate with Alex Salmond? What is he running scared of? That is the unanswered question.

"I've already debated with Alistair Darling. I've debated with Michael Moore. Alex Salmond will debate with lots of people between now and the referendum, but the first and foremost point here is that there should be that debate between the first minister and the prime minister."

'Backed down'

Better Together claimed Ms Sturgeon's comments were a "U-turn".

A spokesman said: "It is good news that Nicola Sturgeon has finally confirmed that Alex Salmond has backed down and will now have a live TV debate with Alistair Darling. Now that both sides have agreed, it's time for the campaigns to get on and make this happen."

Mr Cameron made his position clear when he appeared on the BBC's Andrew Marr show last month.

He told the broadcaster: "Alex Salmond wants the question to be about anything other than the question.

"So he would like the debate to be the SNP versus the Tory Party or Scotland versus England. It's not - it's a debate between Scots.

"What it should be is between Alistair Darling, leader of the No campaign, and Alex Salmond, leader of the Yes campaign."