Scotland politics

Scottish independence: 'Modest progress' at Moore Salmond talks

Alex Salmond and Michael Moore at meeting on independence referendum
Image caption Alex Salmond and Michael Moore met in Edinburgh for talks

First Minister Alex Salmond says he and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore have made "modest progress" at independence referendum talks.

The pair met in Edinburgh to try to iron out the differences between the Scottish and Westminster governments over how the vote should be run.

Mr Salmond said he was due to meet Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday.

Mr Moore said there was still disagreement over the issue of timing.

The first minister said no agreement on "substantive issues" had been reached and that discussions would continue.

He said there remained two main areas of disagreement between the two governments - over the number of questions to be asked and whether 16 and 17 year-olds would be allowed to vote in the ballot.

He said issues over the timing of the referendum and the role of the Electoral Commission in organising the vote had been "more or less settled".

The SNP wants the vote to take place in autumn 2014, while the UK government had previously said it wanted it to take place earlier.

Mr Moore said the Scottish government had indicated to him that it was considering holding the referendum in September or October 2014.

Mr Salmond said: "In terms of the timing my sense is that the timing is more or less accepted.

"On the role of the Electoral Commission it was clarified today that what is being suggested is no different from the role of the Electoral Commission towards the Westminster parliament. If that is the case, I don't see any big disagreement there.

"I think the issues of real contention and disagreement is how open minded we should be to a second question, and also on the question of 16 and 17-year-olds voting."

Public consultations

However, the Scottish secretary said the timing remained one of the issues which both governments disagreed on.

Mr Moore said: "My view is that it needs to be sooner rather than later. 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.

"There are some technical issues about laws and how you pass all that, that we to sort out. But we can do that, I think, much more quickly and get this referendum earlier, and that will be good for Scotland and good for business in Scotland."

Both governments are currently running separate public consultations on the referendum issue.

Following the meeting, Mr Salmond also said that any agreement on resolving the areas where the two administrations differed would only come after the public had had its say on the referendum plans.

He added: "What is important is that we listen to what the people have to say. We are taking a huge decision on Scotland's future."

Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont warned the first minister not to drag out the referendum talks and let the people of Scotland "get on with debating" their future.

She said: "It doesn't bode well for Scotland's referendum that the first minister and the Scottish secretary can't even agree what they agreed at their meeting.

"It is becoming increasingly clear the SNP are determined to drag out the debate about process as a smokescreen for their faltering case for separation.

"If we are continuing to debate the timetable, the franchise and the wording of the question, then we are not talking about the things that matter to people."

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