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Salmond: I'd debate with Farage if he's welcomed into the No campaign

Alex Salmond has suggested he may debate with Nigel Farage if the Ukip leader is welcomed into the No campaign.

The First Minister said he must debate with Prime Minister David Cameron first and suggested that there could be a follow-up with Mr Farage.

But Ukip's new Scottish MEP David Coburn insisted Mr Salmond is "feart of Farage", and is using Mr Cameron's steadfast rejection of televised debate as a "get-out clause".

The Scottish Government cabinet met in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, to answer questions from the local community and set out their vision for independence.

Mr Salmond said independence would "create sustainable prosperity across the whole of Scotland" and that the nation would start life in "more promising circumstances than virtually any nation in history".

A crowd of about 50 unionist supporters gathered outside Fernhill community centre carrying union flags and slogans including: "Fernhill says no to separation."

The First Minister smiled and waved as the crowd booed and sang Rule Britannia.

It comes a day after Ukip stormed to victory in the European Parliament elections, winning a seat in Scotland despite a strong performance by the SNP.

Speaking in Rutherglen, Mr Salmond told the Press Association: "I don't think the Ukip vote has got much to do with the EU, I think it's to do with Westminster politics and a variety of other things plus the incredible media coverage.

"We detected when we were canvassing the postal votes that Ukip support was rising.

"It rose from the time of the debate with Nick Clegg and since then there has been incessant media coverage."

When asked if he would debate with Mr Farage, Mr Salmond said: "I think we have to start with the Prime Minister first, he's the leader of the No campaign and I think First Minister to Prime Minister is the first debate that must happen.

"Then, of course, we have to find out if Mr Farage is welcomed into the No campaign, whether he's part of it as he seems to want to be or whether the others will shut him out.

"I think the term uncomfortable bedfellows hardly sums up the difficulty the No campaign are going to have as a result of that arrangement.

"My view is that people will look at that Tory-Labour leadership with the Lib Dems if they still exist, with Nigel Farage perhaps in or out of the campaign, shake their heads and say it's time to develop a different culture and vote Yes."

He added: "The first I heard from David Coburn was that he was completely tongue-tied when asked what policies he had for Scotland.

"As their policies come under examination I think their support will slide from its 10% level in Scotland.

"He also said a variety of extraordinary things about political comparisons and I think he has to be examined now that he's an elected politician, and I look forward to that."

Mr Coburn said: "I notice he's not challenging any Scottish people. He's not challenging me, is he?

"If he has a debate (with Mr Farage) he's going to have one hell of a job because he's going to get himself into a lot of trouble.

"You saw what happened to Mr Clegg, that was a motorway crash.

"David Cameron is his get-out clause. He's not really offering it. He's too terrified out of his wits of debating with Farage.

"He won't do it unless he has a pop at Cameron because he knows he will knock him into a cocked hat, that's his objective. He knows Cameron is totally hopeless and it will be like shooting rats in a barrel.

"He's feart of Farage."

Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said the address in Rutherglen was "more of the same divisive and negative politics from Alex Salmond".

"Maybe if the First Minister had credible answers about what would replace the pound, how our pensions would be paid and what would happen to the funding for our schools and hospitals if we left the UK, his separatist campaign wouldn't be trailing so badly in the polls," she said.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: "Yet again the Scottish Government is answering the wrong question.

"They are living in the past, basing their analysis on Scotland as part of the UK. All this shows is that we are better-off together as part of the UK.

"Our analysis, which is published on Wednesday, is forward-looking.

"It is the most comprehensive analysis of the fiscal position of Scotland yet produced and will set out the scale of the current and future UK dividend for Scotland."

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