Alex Salmond meets Michael Moore today to discuss
Scotland's independence referendum IMAGE: 'STOCKPIX.EU'
Scottish independence: No strings, Salmond warns London
The Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, will meet First Minister Alex Salmond today who insists that London must not interfere in the Scottish
The meeting is taking place ahead of a visit by David Cameron - pencilled in for later in the week - which will focus on key issues relating to Scotland's historic vote.
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Mr Salmond has maintained that Scotland has the right to hold a referendum without permission from the UK Government. Recently, UK Ministers announced that only Westminster has the legal power to hold a referendum. They propose a transfer of powers, using a Section 30 order, to Holyrood which they say would protect an independence referendum from legal challenges.
The SNP leader has shown a willingness to accommodate London's legal perspective so long as there are "no strings" attached regarding how and when Scotland's referendum proceeds. For Salmond the key point "which we believe should be a point of consensus with UK Ministers – is that the terms of the referendum must be decided in Scotland."
London's pre-conditions to transferring powers under the Section 30 order are likely to include the timing of the vote, whether 16 and 17-year-olds can participate and the wording on the ballot paper.
The Scottish Government has announced that the referendum will take place in autumn 2014. This time-scale Salmond's team believes is required to prepare the Scottish electorate to make a decision of such constitutional significance and permit both sides of the plebiscite the time to make their cases. By contrast UK Government ministers in London have continued to call for the vote to take place "sooner rather than later".
Ahead of their meeting in Edinburgh a spokesman for Mr Moore said the Scottish Secretary is optimistic that both men can "sort out the process side of the referendum.
"The Scottish Government has helpfully clarified a number of details including its preference for a single question and the involvement of the Electoral Commission."
"Hopefully we can agree on Monday that this is the preferred route to a fair and legal referendum."
The Electoral Reform Society Scotland has announced its support for Alex Salmond's preference of having the Scottish Electoral Commission oversee the referendum. Society spokesman Willie Sullivan told Scottish Times:
"A vital element of the operation of any election or referendum is that all sides should have confidence in the integrity and the competence of the administration of the poll. It is not enough for the poll to be fair; the Scottish people must believe it to be fair."
A Scottish Government spokesman welcomed this development saying: "The Electoral Reform Society Scotland agrees that any 'legal mandate' must have 'no strings attached', so Scotland's Parliament can 'call a referendum at a time, and with a question (or questions) of their choosing'."
The Labour Party's leader in Scotland Johann Lamont said: "It seems like the only strings Alex Salmond wants to attach are his own.
"We do not regard a fair, transparent referendum with independent scrutiny as having strings attached. They are the basic rules of engagement for any democratic referendum."
Last week it was exclusively revealed in Scottish Times that the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe (CoE) have been asked to supervise the Scottish independence referendum. The Scottish Democratic Alliance (SDA) sent a Memorandum to the OSCE and CoE warning that by insisting only it has the legal right to hold a referendum, the UK Government is in breach of international law.
Steered by Dr James Wilkie, a United Nations consultant, the SDA is drawing international attention to what they assert is the potential for "external vested interests" to interfere in Scotland's crucial vote.
With the potential threat of European intervention in the referendum there is increased pressure on both Governments to avoid pursuing narrow political advantage and to act in the best interests of the Scottish people.