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Salmond insists on no-strings poll

Alex Salmond has again insisted that plans for an independence referendum must have "no strings attached" from Westminster.

The Scottish First Minister will have talks with Michael Moore from the UK Government on the issue. Ahead of that, a spokesman for the Scottish National Party leader restated his determination for terms of the ballot to be decided north of the border.

Coalition ministers have said a vote on whether Scotland should remain in the UK should take place sooner rather than later.

The SNP administration in Edinburgh does not want the vote on the country's constitutional future to be held until autumn 2014. Mr Salmond's spokesman said he believed there was "broad agreement" that was "the right timescale".

The First Minister and the Scottish Secretary are due to meet in Edinburgh. 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."

And 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.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "It seems like the only strings Alex Salmond wants to attach are his own. It is inexplicable that his draft bill published only a few weeks ago waters down the role of the Electoral Commission to the extent that he doesn't want it to rule on the wording of the question.

"We do not regard a fair, transparent referendum with independent scrutiny as having strings attached. They are the basic rules of engagement for any democratic referendum."

Meanwhile, Mr Salmond has responded to reports he is meeting Prime Minister David Cameron in the next few days for talks, saying a date is "to be confirmed".


From Belfast Telegraph