Former US president Bill Clinton has urged both sides of the Scottish independence debate to respectfully weigh up the pros and cons without "tearing the place apart".

The two-term leader, speaking last night at the Scottish Business Awards in Edinburgh, said that while he does not know enough about the domestic constitutional debate, he has top-level experience from other nations.

"You will come out of this better, regardless, if you go about it in the right way," he told an audience of about 1400 business representatives, and First Minister Alex Salmond. "It's really important that there be an honest effort to list the consequences of this vote, one way or another. Then people that believe they are now, and might be, on different sides, actually sit down and talk to each other about it."

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People have to treat one another with respect, he urged: "When you get a question like this, how you respond to it, how respectfully you treat it, and how honestly you try to listen to other people, then come to the conclusion, is sometimes as important as the decision."