Scottish independence referendum: Salmond open to talks with PM

Alex Salmond arrives at Dublin Castle for the British-Irish Council summit. Picture: PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images
Alex Salmond arrives at Dublin Castle for the British-Irish Council summit. Picture: PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images
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First Minister Alex Salmond said today that he was ready to meet Prime Minister David Cameron “in Edinburgh, in London or wherever” to discuss the way forward for a referendum on independence.

Mr Salmond’s offer came as he met Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for a summit of the British-Irish Council in Dublin, just hours after he accused the UK Government of “bullying” the people of Scotland over independence.

Mr Clegg rejected the accusation of bullying and said he and Mr Cameron had made it clear that they want direct talks with the Scottish Government on the referendum.

Mr Salmond appeared alongside Mr Clegg at a press conference in Dublin at the conclusion of the British-Irish Council summit, which brings together representatives of national and devolved governments from across the British Isles.

The First Minister announced that he will publish his proposals for an independence referendum in the autumn of 2014 on January 25 and will be happy to meet Mr Cameron after that.

In an interview broadcast shortly before the meeting, the First Minister warned that he would not be pushed around by Westminster: “Bullying and hectoring the Scottish people from London ain’t gonna work.

“What we’re seeing is the most extraordinary attempt to bully and intimidate Scotland by Westminster politicians.”

Asked about his comments, Mr Salmond said: “On the subject of Scotland’s constitutional future, the UK Government made proposals last Tuesday, the Scottish Government will be launching our consultation document a week on Wednesday - a consultation document with the whole community of Scotland.

“We believe, we know, and I think it’s generally acknowledged that we have got an unanswerable political mandate - that is an absolute majority in a proportional parliamentary system - to conduct a referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future.

“What I have said to the Deputy Prime Minister, which I think is similar to what the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons, is that, once we’ve published the Scottish Government’s consultation document, I am very happy to meet the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister in Edinburgh, in London or wherever to talk through these things in a positive way.

“Far better, whatever our views on events of recent days, that we can come to a constructive dialogue. I think that’s what the people would expect and I think that can take us forward.

“Once we publish our proposals, perhaps some of the fears that people have will dissolve in the light of these proposals being published.”