Salmond and Cameron resume their tug of war

The likely outcome of this week's referendum talks.

The constitutional tug of war between Westminster and Holyrood begins again this week, with Scottish Secretary Michael Moore meeting Alex Salmond for talks in Edinburgh today, and David Cameron following him a few days later. Although it wants the independence referendum to be held as soon as possible, the UK government is prepared to accept Salmond's chosen date of autumn 2014, a few weeks after the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn.

But the timing aside, much else remains unclear. The two sides remain divided on the wording of the referendum, the number of questions, the role of the UK's Electoral Commission and whether 16 and 17 year-olds should get a vote, as the SNP has argued. The UK government is determined for the referendum to be a straight yes/no vote on independence with no devolution max option included. The danger in leaving "devo max"off the ballot paper is that Scottish voters, the majority of whom support it, conclude that the only way to win fiscal autonomy is to vote for full independence.

It was for this reason that Moore indicated that further powers could be transferred to Scotland in the event of a no vote. As he told the Times (£), "The referendum is the start of the conversation, not the end." What remains unclear is whether Moore was freelancing or speaking on behalf of the UK government. Although George Osborne is attracted by the option of devo max, which would force Scotland to raise its own money as well as spend it, few other Tories are.

Should the UK government and Scotland fail to reach agreement on the terms of the referendum, it's still possible that Salmond will hold his own advisory ballot without the legal authority of Westminster. This would be open to challenge in the courts but, as I noted last month, Moore has indicated that the government would not launch that challenge itself. Yet as the blog Wings over Scotland asked at the time, why would the UK government not challenge what would be an allegedly illegal attempt to break up the Union? The government's true opinion of the legality of a Scottish-led referendum will come under scrutiny again this week.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Appreciate the full horror of Nigel Farage's pro-Trump speech

The former Ukip leader has appeared at a Donald Trump rally. It went exactly as you would expect.

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce Nigel Farage is at it again.

The on-again, off-again Ukip leader and current Member of the European Parliament has appeared at a Donald Trump rally to lend his support to the presidential candidate.

It was, predictably, distressing.

Farage started by telling his American audience why they, like he, should be positive.

"I come to you from the United Kingdom"

Okay, good start. Undeniably true.

"– with a message of hope –

Again, probably quite true.

Image: Clearly hopeful (Wikipedia Screenshot)

– and optimism.”

Ah.

Image: Nigel Farage in front of a poster showing immigrants who are definitely not European (Getty)

He continues: “If the little people, if the real people–”

Wait, what?

Why is Trump nodding sagely at this?

The little people?

Image: It's a plane with the name Trump on it (Wikimedia Commons)

THE LITTLE PEOPLE?

Image: It's the word Trump on the side of a skyscraper I can't cope with this (Pixel)

THE ONLY LITTLE PERSON CLOSE TO TRUMP IS RIDING A MASSIVE STUFFED LION

Image: I don't even know what to tell you. It's Trump and his wife and a child riding a stuffed lion. 

IN A PENTHOUSE

A PENTHOUSE WHICH LOOKS LIKE LIBERACE WAS LET LOOSE WITH THE GILT ON DAY FIVE OF A PARTICULARLY BAD BENDER

Image: So much gold. Just gold, everywhere.

HIS WIFE HAS SO MANY BAGS SHE HAS TO EMPLOY A BAG MAN TO CARRY THEM

Image: I did not even know there were so many styles of Louis Vuitton, and my dentists has a lot of old copies of Vogue.

Anyway. Back to Farage, who is telling the little people that they can win "against the forces of global corporatism".

 

Image: Aaaaarggghhhh (Wikipedia Screenshot)

Ugh. Okay. What next? Oh god, he's telling them they can have a Brexit moment.

“... you can beat Washington...”

“... if enough decent people...”

“...are prepared to stand up against the establishment”

Image: A screenshot from Donald Trump's Wikipedia page.

I think I need a lie down.

Watch the full clip here:

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland