Edinburgh and London have clashed after the Coalition Government called on Scottish ministers to hold the independence vote a year earlier than planned.

In a move designed to pressure the SNP, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said there was no reason the vote could not be held in September 2013.

He accused Scottish ministers of working on a "go slow" and said their planned timetable had “heel digging built in”.

However, the SNP hit back, accusing the Coalition of attempting to "dictate" the terms of the ballot from Westminster. A party source added that  Mr Moore was on a "losing wicket...He is just highlighting the fact this is not his to decide."

The row came as Coalition ministers also accused the SNP of a sleight of hand with their pledge to give 16 and 17-year-olds a vote.
Only those aged 16 years and nine months would actually be given a say, depending on what time of year the referendum was held, Scotland Office Minister David Mundell told MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee.

The Scottish Government has been accused of electioneering with its plans to hold the vote in autumn 2014. Critics point out that would coincide with a series of high-profile events including the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. But the SNP insists time is needed to ensure fair process.

The Scotland Office yesterday produced an alternative time-table, which would see the vote held in 2013. Mr Moore criticised Scottish Government plans to spend the whole summer analysing responses to their consultation on independence which finishes in May.

The SNP also plans to wait 12 months between the Bill getting Royal Assent and holding the vote, twice as long as the six months recommended by the Gould report into elections, the Scotland Office said.

Mr Moore accused the SNP of wanting to "kick the referendum can down the road". He said: "The timetable the Scottish Government has set out has heel dragging built into it. There are months and months set aside for straightforward tasks." Holding the vote earlier would also ease fears expressed by the business community, he said.

It is the first time the Coalition has put such a clear date on when they think the vote should be held. Mr Moore said that "give or take a few weeks" it was close to the First Minister's declaration it would be in the second half of the parliament.

Previous votes have varied in how long they have taken to organise. The Coalition's AV electoral reform referendum was held less than a year after the Tories and the Liberal Democrats came to power.

Other parties also tried to put pressure on the SNP. Scottish Labour's deputy leader Anas Sarwar said: "I don't fear the result, why does the First Minister?"

But Bruce Crawford, Scottish Minister for Government Strategy, denounced the Coalition move as a "silly distraction". He said: "The more they try to dictate the terms of the referendum from Westminster, the more unpopular the anti-independence parties will become, and the more popular independence  will be."

The row came as the Prime Minister backed calls by his Education Secretary Michael Gove for English nationalists to lay off Scots.
Mr Cameron was responding to calls from former Labour minister Frank Field for England to get a better deal out of the devolution settlement.

The Prime Minister also accused the SNP of "running away" from independence.