Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Salmond renews call for PM debate

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionFirst Minister Alex Salmond again calls for a debate with David Cameron ahead of the referendum on Scottish independence

Alex Salmond has renewed his call for David Cameron to go head-to-head with him in a TV debate on Scottish independence.

Speaking after the prime minister made a keynote speech in London urging Scots to reject independence, the first minister described the intervention as a "one-sided sermon".

During the speech, Mr Cameron said he would argue his position in Scotland.

Mr Salmond said a head-to-head was "the debate people want to see".

The prime minister chose the Olympic Park in East London to make his highest profile speech yet on the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence.

He said his words were directed primarily at those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and urged them to tell people in Scotland to reject independence.

Evoking his Scottish heritage and saying the debate was "personal", Mr Cameron said "all 63 million of us are profoundly affected" by the outcome of the referendum.

Image copyright AP
Image caption David Cameron made his plea to back "Team GB" with only seven months until the referendum

However, in an interview with the BBC, Mr Salmond described the speech as a "one-sided sermon" and invited the prime minister to debate with him in two weeks time, when both the Scottish and UK cabinets will be meeting in the north east of Scotland.

He said: "I think it's incredible that the prime minister wants to have a sermon from Mount Olympus instead of coming to Scotland and having an open, democratic debate.

"In a couple of weeks time the cabinet and the Scottish cabinet are meeting in Portlethen and in Dyce. Why don't we have that debate ... so somebody can actually answer the prime minister back, instead of having this one-sided sermon from London.

"If David Cameron is not prepared to have it, a lot of folk in Scotland are going to say 'what is he frightened of?'"

'Political tool'

Voters in Scotland will decide on their country's future on 18 September.

They will be asked the straight "yes/no" question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Blair Jenkins, head of the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign, said Mr Cameron's position was now "untenable".

He added: "David Cameron continues to lecture Scotland, but still refuses to debate in Scotland.

"To use the Olympic Games as a political tool shows that the No campaign and its leader are running scared and running out of ideas.

"The positive case for No clearly doesn't exist.

"In September, we have a chance to put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands and ensure that we always get the government we vote for.

"His position on refusing to debate with the first minister of Scotland is becoming increasingly untenable."

However, a spokesman for the pro-Union Better Together campaign said Alistair Darling, their leader, was ready to debate Mr Salmond "any time".

He added: "Alex Salmond wants to have his cake and eat it.

"He tells the prime minister to butt out when it suits him and throws his toys out the pram when he doesn't get what he wants.

"If he wants a debate, Alistair Darling - who has a vote in the referendum - is ready to have one any time, any place, any where."