David Cameron and Ed Miliband unite to back union

 

David Cameron and Ed Miliband joined forces today in pledging to fight to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, as Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond told Westminster politicians to "butt out" of the debate.

The leaders of both major Westminster parties called on Mr Salmond's Scottish National Party to engage in talks over the coming weeks to pave the way for a referendum on independence.

Mr Cameron said he "passionately" believed in preserving the Union, and taunted the SNP for seeking to delay a ballot, telling MPs: "Let's have the debate and let's keep our country together."

But Mr Salmond dismissed the UK Government's argument that Scotland's Parliament has no legal power to mount its own referendum on independence.

He will unveil his own proposals before the end of this month for a referendum in the autumn of 2014.

The First Minister's plans, set for publication in the week beginning January 23, look set to put Edinburgh on collision course with London.

Mr Salmond's office said they will include a vote for 16 and 17-year-olds and may offer voters a third "devo-max" option, under which Scotland would stay in the Union but gain greater self-determination on financial issues. Both of these features were ruled out in UK Government proposals put forward by Scotland Secretary Michael Moore.

Mr Moore called on the Scottish administration to work with the UK Government over the coming weeks to agree arrangements for a "clear, legal and decisive" referendum, which could be held within 18 months.

And Mr Cameron's spokesman indicated that this could involve talks between the Prime Minister and Mr Salmond.

The spokesman said he expected negotiations over the referendum - and the independence battle itself - to involve senior politicians from all sides of the debate, including a number of Government ministers.

He did not rule out the possibility that Mr Cameron could appear alongside Mr Miliband to argue the case for the Union, after the Prime Minister said he agreed "100%" with the Labour leader on the benefits of preserving the United Kingdom.

In a rare display of unity at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron said: "This is one area where (Mr Miliband) and I are going to be 100% in agreement.

"I passionately believe in the future of our United Kingdom. I passionately believe we are stronger together rather than breaking apart.

"Frankly, I am sad we are even having this debate, because I support the United Kingdom so strongly, but we have to respect the fact that Scotland voted for a separatist party at the Scottish parliamentary elections."

Mr Miliband said: "We on this side of the House believe the United Kingdom benefits the people of Scotland and the people of the rest of the United Kingdom in equal measure.

"We are stronger together and weaker apart."

Mr Cameron said he was "looking forward" to the debate, and mocked the SNP for seeking to delay the poll until 2014, telling MPs: "I sometimes think when I listen to them that it is not a referendum they want, it's a never-endum."

Asked whether the PM would be willing to share a platform with Mr Miliband, Mr Cameron's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister is keen to make the case for the Union and you saw at Prime Minister's Questions that he is keen to work with the opposition on this."

Mr Salmond said the Prime Minister should "butt out" of an issue for Scottish people and said his intervention had provoked a "huge adverse reaction... to the Thatcheresque idea that Downing Street knows best".

He had "no objection" to Mr Moore's proposals for Westminster to help Holyrood stage a referendum, but said there was "plenty of legal authority" for the Scottish Government to mount its own ballot without assistance from south of the border.

Mr Salmond told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "The objection, of course, is that the Prime Minister has started to put all sorts of London-based strings on."

He said: "Our conditions are quite clear: this must be a referendum built and run in Scotland, accountable to the Scottish Parliament. It has to be run fairly and transparently, of course, but we won't accept unreasonable conditions placed by London on how Scotland should run the poll."

Mr Salmond's office confirmed the Scottish Government's position that 16 and 17-year-olds on the electoral register in Scotland should be "fully entitled to vote" in any referendum. Asked if voters would be offered a third "devo-max" option, a spokesman said: "We're not for closing down choice."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobAre you a trai...

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbridge Wells - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbrid...

Year 3 Teacher Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering