Mixed reaction to referendum row

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ELECTED representatives from across the local political spectrum have given a predictably mixed reaction to Alex Salmond’s announcement on Tuesday that the preferred date for Scots to vote in an independence referendum is the autumn of 2014.

The news was conveyed as an apparently unaware Michael Moore, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk and Secretary of State for Scotland, launched a consultation paper on Scotland’s constitutional future in the Commons.

Mr Moore said a referendum needed to be “legal, fair and decisive”, adding: “To legislate for a referendum ... the Scottish Parliament must have the legal power to do so ... it is the [Westminster] Government’s clear view that the Scottish Parliament does not have that power.”

Mr Salmond’s SNP ally and South of Scotland MSP Paul Wheelhouse said yesterday that the First Minister’s announcement gave an “exciting opportunity to the people of the Borders”.

“The last three days have seen the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour all try to muscle in on the referendum, so I welcome the commitment to one which is made in Scotland by the Scottish people and the Scottish Parliament,” said Mr Wheelhouse.

Tory MSP John Lamont claimed Mr Salmond had been forced into naming a date. “He has buckled under pressure ... and we have an historic decision to make,” he told us. “It must not be held up for years in the courts.”

Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume said: “The SNP knows if there was a yes/no referendum tomorrow they would lose outright. Their partisan handling of Scotland’s future has put their credibility on a shoogly peg.”