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No early referendum, says Alex Salmond

Alex Salmond today dismissed calls for an early referendum on Scottish independence as a poll showed a UK majority favouring greater self-rule north of the border.

The First Minister insisted he would go to the polls in the second half of the four-year parliamentary cycle, as set out in the Scottish National Party's (SNP) manifesto.

His vow came as research by ComRes for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror found support for independence had risen sharply over recent months.

In the UK overall, 39% of those surveyed agreed Scotland should be an independent country - an increase of six points since May.

The number disagreeing with the statement fell four points to 38%.

Prime Minister David Cameron last week urged Mr Salmond to test opinion with an early referendum.

But the SNP leader said today: "I made it clear we would hold a referendum in the second half of the parliamentary term.

"That's what we said we would do and that's what we intend to do and no amount of blustering from the Prime Minister is going to change that view."

He added: "Among ordinary folk in England, there's a substantial amount of support for the idea Scotland wants to stand on its own two feet and make its own way in the world."

He claimed "the days of Westminster politicians telling Scotland what to do" were over, saying: "We had generations of being ordered about from Westminster. That's gone now."

Mr Salmond said only the SNP had a mandate to call a referendum.

Speaking to Sky News's Murnaghan programme, he said a vote for independence would not mean the breaking up of the Union, but the start of "a new relationship between the countries in these islands".

Meanwhile, the Scotland Office criticised the ComRes poll, saying the sample north of the border was small at just 176 people this month, and 183 in May.

"This poll is based on a very small sample of less than 200 Scots and we simply don't believe it reflects the wider picture accurately," a spokesman said.

"The Scottish Government has yet to put any detail on its plans for independence to the people of Scotland and we will continue to demand they do so, while at the same time making the strong and positive case for remaining part of the United Kingdom."

: ComRes surveyed 2,004 adults online on October 12 and 13. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of the population and by past vote recall.

Source: PA