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David Cameron slams ‘slippery’ AlexSalmond and accuses Boris Johnson of putting career before country

David Cameron (right) when he was Prime Minister with Boris Johnson
David Cameron (right) when he was Prime Minister with Boris Johnson

By PA Reporters

Scotland's former first minister Alex Salmond has been branded "the slipperiest of characters" by David Cameron, with the ex-PM saying it would have "hurt beyond belief" if Scots had voted for independence.

In his forthcoming autobiography, For The Record, the former Conservative leader concedes allowing the 2014 referendum to take place was a "gamble" - although he said it would have been a "much bigger gamble" to dismiss the issue.

After the SNP won an overall majority at Holyrood in 2011, Mr Cameron travelled to Edinburgh to negotiate the terms of the historic ballot.

The former prime minister said: "I went up to Edinburgh for my first negotiation meeting with the slipperiest of characters, Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, in February 2012.

"I always used to say you had to count your fingers on the way out of a meeting with him."

Mr Cameron had been at Balmoral for an audience with the Queen in the run-up to the referendum when a shock poll put 'Yes' narrowly in the lead.

Days later, the Queen urged Scots to "think very carefully" about the vote, with Mr Cameron saying he was "delighted" by her comments.

He wrote: "If I were the one who precipitated the end of our island story, it would hurt beyond belief."

Mr Cameron said there was "panic" when the turnout in the referendum - which took place almost exactly five years ago on September 18, 2014 - was put at almost 85%, the highest in UK history. He recalled: "After Clackmannanshire declared at 1.30am with a solitary majority for no, I went to bed but I didn't sleep.

"The lead we were taking started closing overnight. But sure enough, after 4am the No votes kept rolling in.

"Two of the happiest hours of my life followed. Everything was going to be OK."

Scots voted by 55% to 45% against independence, with Mr Salmond announcing within hours of the result being declared that he would be stepping down as SNP leader and first minister.

Mr Cameron used his memoirs, serialised in the Sunday Times, to launch another stinging attack on Boris Johnson, claiming the Prime Minister "didn't believe" in Brexit and only backed the Leave campaign to further his career.

The Conservative former prime minister said Mr Johnson privately claimed there could be a "fresh renegotiation, followed by a second referendum" - which he now says he opposes.

In extracts of his long-awaited book, Mr Cameron also labelled Brexiteer Michael Gove, who was once a close friend, a "foam-flecked Faragist".

And he accused the leaders of the Leave campaign of declaring "open warfare" on him - and claimed they were guilty of "lying" to the public to win the 2016 referendum.

Mr Cameron wrote that the now-Prime Minister wanted to become the "darling of the party" and "didn't want to risk allowing someone else with a high profile - Mr Gove in particular - to win that crown".

"The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn't believe in because it would help his political career," he said.

On Mr Gove, the former PM said: "One quality shone through: disloyalty. Disloyalty to me and, later, disloyalty to Boris."

He said Mr Gove's claim the public was tired of experts made him "an ambassador for the truth-twisting age of populism".

"By the end, Boris and Michael seemed to me to be different people. Boris had backed something he didn't believe in.

"Michael had backed something he did perhaps believe in, but in the process had broken with his friends ... while taking up positions that were completely against his political identity.

"Both then behaved appallingly, attacking their own government, turning a blind eye to their side's unpleasant actions and becoming ambassadors for the expert-trashing, truth-twisting age of populism."

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