Scottish independence: Referendum details must be thrashed out within weeks, Salmond told
FRESH TALKS are to be held between the SNP government and coalition chiefs this week over the independence referendum as Alex Salmond faces growing calls to get round the table and thrash out a deal.
The First Minister will set out his legislative programme for the year ahead when MSPs return to Holyrood today from their two-month summer break. A bill to stage a referendum on Scottish independence will be at the heart of his plans.
But uncertainty still hangs over the historic vote, earmarked for 2014, because no agreement has been reached with the Westminster administration. David Cameron is already believed to have agreed to SNP demands over the timing of the referendum and that 16- and 17-year-olds should be allowed a say. The stumbling block remains the prospect of a third option on more powers for Holyrood being on the ballot paper, alongside Yes or No to independence.
The pro-Union camp is against this and negotiations will take place on the referendum on Thursday between the SNP’s government strategy secretary, Bruce Crawford, and junior Scotland Office minister David Mundell.
But a Scotland Office spokesman said yesterday: “It will require talks between the Scottish Secretary and the First Minister to make real progress and we expect this meeting to take place in the next few weeks.
“The Prime Minister has said that he will meet with the First Minister, but only after further progress has been made.”
The Scottish Government is considering 21,000 responses to its consultation on the referendum before deciding whether to press for a third option on more powers. But Westminster sources have claimed the timetable of parliamentary business is running out and unless a deal is secured in the next couple of months on a section 30 order, the referendum may be delayed until 2015. The section 30 order would see Westminster transfer the power to legislate for a referendum to Holyrood, as the constitution is currently reserved to London. The SNP insists it already has the legal authority to stage a referendum.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We have always said we have absolutely no objection to a section 30 order with no Westminster strings attached, which could be agreed very shortly. Discussions around that continue.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said yesterday: “The SNP government has a mandate to hold a referendum on independence, but it also has a responsibility to give people facts and figures about its plans.
“With talks having gone on since January this year, it is time the SNP government got on with securing a clear legal question to put on the ballot paper and to the people.”
Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman David McLetchie said: “While Alex Salmond makes up his mind on whether or not to betray the SNP’s founding principle of independence by tinkering around with second questions, the key message to both governments is to get on with it.”
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Friday 24 May 2013
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