British PM heads to Scotland for independence talks
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
David Cameron.British Prime Minister David Cameron heads to Scotland Thursday for talks with First Minister Alex Salmond on a referendum on independence, vowing to "fight with everything I have" to preserve the union.
Cameron will meet the Scottish leader in Edinburgh for their first official discussion on the issue, a month after Salmond's government unveiled its proposals for a vote in 2014.
While in Edinburgh, Cameron will promise in a speech to fight tooth and nail to maintain the 300-year-old union between Scotland and England, arguing that both countries are stronger within the United Kingdom.
"The fight is now underway for something really precious: the future of our United Kingdom," Cameron will say, according to remarks released by his office.
"I am 100 percent clear that I will fight with everything I have to keep our United Kingdom together. "To me, this is not some issue of policy or strategy or calculation -- it matters head, heart and soul. Our shared home is under threat and everyone who cares about it needs to speak out." Cameron's Conservative party, the senior partner in the coalition government in London, is strongly opposed to any break-up of the union but has accepted that a referendum on Scottish independence is inevitable.
Salmond's Scottish National Party (SNP), which has long campaigned for a vote on independence, has a majority in the devolved Scottish parliament.
However, London is seeking to influence the timing of the vote, arguing that it should take place before the SNP's target date of late 2014 to limit any damage to the economy caused by the political uncertainty.
The British government has also questioned Edinburgh's proposal that voters be asked not just a simple 'yes' or 'no' question about independence, but also be offered a third option of increased devolution.
British lawmakers weighed into the argument on Wednesday with a report highlighting all the issues arising from a potential split that it said must be answered before any referendum takes place.
These include what happens to the valuable oil reserves in the North Sea, how to divide up the financial services industry and how Scotland would be defended, when the armed forces currently protect all of the UK.
The report sparked an angry response from SNP lawmaker Stewart Hosie, who said it took a "predictably pejorative approach" to the issue of independence and ignored the fact that many of these issues had already been discussed.