Scotland politics

Nick Clegg attacks Alex Salmond over referendum delay

Nick Clegg
Image caption Nick Clegg said Alex Salmond was obsessed with 'yanking' Scotland out of the United Kingdom

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has launched a scathing attack on the First Minister Alex Salmond saying his "sole obsession'" is to '"yank" Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

The Liberal Democrat leader told BBC Scotland that the first minister should have the "courage of his convictions'" and call an independence referendum.

Mr Clegg said it was about time the SNP "level with the Scottish people'".

He also defended his decision to enter into coalition with the Conservatives.

Mr Clegg made the comments in an interview with BBC Scotland at his party's conference in Birmingham.

He said: "Clearly I am opposed to Alex Salmond's ambition, which seems to be his sole ambition in Scottish government, to yank Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

"I think it is not good for Scotland. I believe passionately in a strong Scotland, with more powers, but in a strong United Kingdom.

"I think the more that the details are looked at and the less that Alex Salmond is able to provide any answers to any questions about what it means for Scottish people, then the more people will actually decide this isn't really something that they want."

Mr Clegg accused Mr Salmond of playing cat and mouse with the Scottish people over the issue of an independence referendum.

He added: "We certainly need to hear some answers from Alex Salmond.

"I think he should have the courage of his convictions and come out and say that he believes in total independence, that's what's on offer, let's have a yes or no referendum."

Mr Clegg refused be drawn on whether Westminster should take the initiative and organise such a vote instead.

He defended his decision last year to enter coalition with the Conservatives, but acknowledged it was unpopular with many Liberal Democrats in Scotland.

A spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond said: "The Lib Dems' obsession with the SNP this week has been plain for all to see as their position on the constitution crumbles under pressure, and they have only succeeded in making themselves look ridiculous.

"On the one hand they oppose the Scottish government's call for financial powers such as Corporation Tax being transferred to Scotland to support our economy and create jobs, but at the same time Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and his colleagues are talking about setting up a Commission to deliver full financial independence.

"That is extraordinary muddled thinking, and the simple fact is that the Scottish Secretary and his Lib Dem colleagues cannot act as the Tories' front men in Scotland and at the same time present themselves as Home Rulers - they have to choose."

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