Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Salmond: London Should 'Butt Out' Cameron and Miliband Unite against SNP

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Salmond: London Should 'Butt Out' Cameron and Miliband Unite against SNP

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Woodcock

DAVID Cameron and Ed Miliband joined forces yesterday in pledging to fight to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, as Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond told Westminster politicians to "butt out" of the debate.

The leaders of both major Westminster parties called on Mr Salmond's Scottish National Party to engage in talks over the coming weeks to pave the way for a referendum on independence.

Mr Cameron said he "passionately" believed in preserving the Union, and taunted the SNP for seeking to delay a ballot, telling MPs: "Let's have the debate and let's keep our country together."

But Mr Salmond dismissed the UK Government's argument that Scotland's parliament has no legal power to mount its own referendum on independence.

He will unveil his own proposals before the end of this month for a referendum in the autumn of 2014.

The First Minister's plans, set for publication in the week beginning January 23, look set to put Edinburgh on collision course with London.

Mr Salmond's office said they will include a vote for 16 and 17-year-olds and may offer voters a third "devo-max" option, under which Scotland would stay in the Union but gain greater self-determination on financial issues. Both of these features were ruled out in UK Government proposals put forward by Scotland Secretary Michael Moore.

Mr Moore called on the Scottish administration to work with the UK Government over the coming weeks to agree arrangements for a "clear, legal and decisive" referendum, which could be held within 18 months.

And Mr Cameron's spokesman indicated that this could involve talks between the Prime Minister and Mr Salmond. The spokesman said he expected negotiations over the referendum - and the independence battle itself - to involve senior politicians from all sides of the debate, including a number of Government ministers.

He did not rule out the possibility that Mr Cameron could appear alongside Mr Miliband to argue the case for the Union, after the Prime Minister said he and the Labour leader were in complete agreement on the benefits of preserving the United Kingdom. …

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