Scottish independence: All to play for after referendum talks

By Alex Stevenson

Completely different assessments over the timing of an independence referendum have emerged from the two camps after Monday's talks in Edinburgh.

First minister Alex Salmond suggested that the nationalists' call for the vote to take place in autumn 2014 were "more or less accepted".

But Scottish secretary Michael Moore said afterwards he was clear that "we still don't agree on the timing".

Their disagreement clears the way for further dispute this week when prime minister David Cameron travels to Scotland for his own talks with Mr Salmond.

Disagreement between the Scottish and British government is likely to be intense as the two sides manoeuvre to secure the most favourable terms they can for the independence referendum.

The coalition wants the vote to be held "sooner rather than later", Mr Moore said after today's 90-minute meeting. The SNP prefer to delay the vote to build support for a breakaway from the UK.

Further disagreements on whether 16- and 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote and whether a third 'devo-max' option should be offered to voters in the referendum are also inhibiting progress.
But both sides appear to be committed to resolving their differences rather than going ahead with a constitutional clash in the courts over the Scottish government's power to hold a referendum on its own terms.

"I think when you consider that, under their timetable, we've got the best part of three years before we make this momentous decision, I think people across Scotland believe that actually the sooner we can do that, the better," Mr Moore said.

Mr Salmond emphasised the importance of listening to the views of the Scottish people.

"It's right and proper in how you formulate the question that you listen to the views expressed – we've already had thousands of responses," he said.

"I think there's an appetite for people to have their say in deciding Scotland's future."

Polls suggest that between 32% and 38% of Scots favour independence and 75% favouring a referendum on the matter.