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Salmond and Moore to discuss vote

Alex Salmond and the Scottish Secretary are to meet for talks about the independence referendum.

The Scottish First Minister and Michael Moore will have a discussion in Edinburgh, with Mr Salmond stating his determination for the terms of the ballot to be decided north of the border.

Both the SNP administration in Edinburgh and the UK Government at Westminster have launched separate consultations on the referendum.

Coalition ministers have said a vote on whether Scotland should remain in the UK should take place sooner rather than later. But Mr Salmond's spokesman said ahead of the meeting that there was a "broad agreement" that holding the vote on the country's constitutional future in autumn 2014 was "the right timescale".

A spokesman for Mr Moore said: "The Secretary of State is optimistic that we can quickly sort out the process side of the referendum and then get on to the real debate about Scotland's future."

Mr Salmond's spokesman said: "Monday's meeting is a welcome step forward - and a much better approach by the UK Government than the unfortunate attempt by the Prime Minister at the start of the year to impose the timing and terms of the referendum from Westminster."

There could be disagreement over the Scottish Government's refusal to rule out including a third option of greatly enhanced powers for Holyrood - "devo-max" - on the ballot paper. Mr Salmond has already said he wants to ask voters: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"

The Scottish Government's consultation includes the possibility of asking voters if they back maximum devolution, while Westminster politicians have repeatedly said the referendum should be a straight choice between independence or staying in the UK. The Scottish Government consultation also includes the possibility of allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.

The UK Government has repeatedly insisted Holyrood does not have the power to stage an independence vote, and is carrying out its own consultation on proposals to temporarily extend the Scottish Parliament's powers, using a Section 30 order, to allow it to conduct the referendum.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she hoped the talks today would be "constructive". She told BBC Scotland: "I think the principle underlying these talks has to be that the terms of the referendum have to be settled here in Scotland and, of course, the outcome of the referendum decided by the people of Scotland."


From Belfast Telegraph