British Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore has asked to meet First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond this week in a bid to resolve a bitter row over an independence referendum.
“Since Tuesday, when I set out our plans for how Scotland can hold a legal referendum, I have spoken to the first minister and asked him to meet for talks,” Moore said in a statement released yesterday.
Salmond said on Friday he would be ready to meet Westminster officials either in Edinburgh or London for “constructive dialogue.”
Moore said he “was pleased to hear him suggest talks” and suggested a meeting in Edinburgh later this week.
“We want this referendum made in Scotland and we should start the work this week in the nation’s capital,” Moore added. “There are real legal problems that need to be solved and I hope we all share the desire to have a legal, fair and decisive referendum.”
A constitutional clash erupted after Salmond announced on Tuesday that the Scottish government would hold a vote in the autumn of 2014 that could result in the break up of the 300-year-old UK.
British Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that only parliament in London had the legal power to set the terms for a referendum, and said the vote should be held sooner to end uncertainty over the issue.
Salmond has been pushing for a referendum since elections last year when his Scottish National Party won the first majority in the Edinburgh parliament since its formation in 1999.
However, an opinion poll published in the Mail on Sunday showed that only 26 percent of Scots backed independence from Britain. About 29 percent of English and Welsh people polled supported Scottish independence.
Former British chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling, widely tipped to head the pro-union campaign, warned in yesterday’s Observer newspaper that independence would bring “immense” economic difficulties and would be an “amazing” risk.