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Alex Salmond's plan for 2014 vote on split with UK

By Katrine Bussey

Scotland's First Minister has dismissed UK Government proposals that would pave the way for a vote on independence - instead announcing plans for his own ballot.

Alex Salmond said autumn 2014 was the Scottish government's preferred date for a vote on the country's constitutional future.

Just over an hour before that was revealed, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore insisted any attempt to mount a referendum on the basis of legislation passed at Holyrood would be unlawful, and could be struck down by the courts.

Instead he said a draft order drawn up in Westminster could temporarily extend the Scottish Parliament's powers, allowing it to hold a referendum on the single question of whether or not Scotland should remain in the UK.

However, a spokesman for Mr Salmond said Scottish National Party ministers were "entirely confident" of their plans.

Mr Salmond said that Westminster should "resist the temptation" to interfere in Scottish politics.

"I think the Westminster parties have got to start understanding - all Westminster politicians - that this has to be a referendum made, built, and run in Scotland," he said.

The First Minister added the 2014 timescale was desirable "because this is the biggest decision Scotland has made for 300 years".

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said announcing the preferred date was a "panicked response from a panicked First Minister" to the 'Section 30' order, which could give Holyrood the power to deliver a referendum.

This would have to be approved by both Houses at Westminster and the Scottish Parliament, but could allow a ballot to be staged within 12-18 months with a single ballot paper offering voters the choice between independence or remaining part of the UK.

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