Scotland, Britain Clash Over Independence Vote

Posted January 11th, 2012 at 8:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Scottish leader Alex Salmond says the people of Scotland should set the terms of a referendum on independence from Britain, not the British government.

The Scottish first minister said Wednesday his government is prepared to debate the issue, but will not be bullied by London.

“We won't be talked down to from Downing Street. The last time that happened from a Tory (conservative) prime minister was Margaret Thatcher, and that didn't do her much good in Scotland. So my strong advice to David Cameron is to get back to the respect agenda. By all means let's have discussion and dialogue, but let's have it on the basis that there's an overwhelming mandate in the Scottish parliament to build and construct a fair referendum in Scotland, so the people of Scotland can determine their own future.”

The Scottish National Party wants to hold the referendum in 2014 so its independence movement can gain momentum. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron says he is against any separation, but that the will of the Scottish people must be respected. However, he insisted that if a vote is to be held it must not be delayed, to avoid economic problems that might arise out of the issue.

“We have to respect the fact that Scotland voted for a separatist party at those Scottish parliamentary elections, so I think the first thing that's right to do is to make clear the legal position about a referendum, and that is what my right honorable friend, the Scottish secretary, has been doing, and we have made the offer that we will devolve the power to hold that referendum so a referendum can be made in Scotland, and held in Scotland. And frankly I look forward to having the debate, because I think that there have been too many in the SNP (Scottish National Party) who are happy to talk about the process. They're happy to talk about the process, they don't want to talk about the substance. I sometimes feel when I listen to them, it's not a referendum they want, it's a 'never-endum.' On that question let's have the debate and let's keep our country together.”

London on Tuesday set out the conditions under which Scotland can decide whether to sever its centuries-old constitutional ties with Britain. The government also said such a vote would be unlawful unless done with the approval of the British parliament.

Scotland now has a legislature that governs its own internal affairs and social policies, but foreign policy and defense are still controlled by London.

The parliaments of England and Scotland voted more than 300 years ago to unite in a single kingdom called Great Britain.

A 2014 vote would coincide with the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, a Scottish victory over the English. Salmond said the date is purely coincidental.