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Pressure builds on Cameron over TV debate with Salmond

ALEX Salmond has turned up the heat on David Cameron over the Prime Minister's refusal to meet him in televised debate, describing his position as displaying "arrogance and fear."

HEADS: A survey by the SNP shows that, down south, even Tory voters want to see the constitutional future of the UK debated on television by Salmond and Cameron. Picture: PA
HEADS: A survey by the SNP shows that, down south, even Tory voters want to see the constitutional future of the UK debated on television by Salmond and Cameron. Picture: PA

ALEX Salmond has turned up the heat on David Cameron over the Prime Minister's refusal to meet him in televised debate, describing his position as displaying "arrogance and fear."

A poll commissioned by the SNP has shown 63% of Scots and 56% of voters in the rest of the UK believe Mr Cameron should accept the challenge to debate with Mr Salmond.

In Scotland, there was support for the debate across all parties except among Tory voters.

South of the Border, even Tory supporters thought a televised encounter should go ahead, prompting another letter to Downing Street from Mr Salmond pressing his demand.

Mr Cameron rebuffed the arguments on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, insisting: "I know why Alex Salmond is pushing this argument - it's because he's losing the current argument and he wants to try and change the argument.

"But this is not a debate between me and him. The debate should be between people in Scotland who want to stay, and people in Scotland who want to go."

Mr Cameron agreed that the referendum decision will affect everyone in the UK, but insisted the debate should take place in Scotland, adding: "We debate these things in parliament and we debate them in the media.

"But the key question - does Scotland stay in the UK or does Scotland leave the UK? - that is for Scots to decide, and that is where the debate should take place."

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper, the Prime Minister spoke of the importance of the referendum campaign and pledged: "I'll work very hard to play my part." He added: "We've just got to keep pushing both the arguments of the head and those of the heart. I think the arguments of the head we've been winning very strongly. We now need to win some of the arguments of the heart.

"The UK is not something to want to belong to simply for economic reasons, but actually for emotional and historic reasons: in a diverse, dangerous world, the security of the United Kingdom; the ability to be part of something that could be a great success story, just as it has been in the past. We need to win those arguments."

All of this, coupled with the latest rejection of a televised debate, prompted Mr Salmond's fiercest criticism yet.

"David Cameron's attitude is the same mix of arrogance and fear that saw the Tories seek invisible cuts to Scotland's budget in the 1980s and plan £4 billion of cuts for the future," he said.

"Arrogance because his government wants to dictate the terms of the debate but refuses to take part in a public debate and fear because he knows, as people across Scotland do, that he represents a government Scotland did not elect." He added: "The Prime Minister's position is increasingly ridiculous. He cannot on the one hand tell the BBC that the referendum debate will take place in the media and then simply refuse to debate.

"A majority of people, not just in Scotland but in the rest of the UK, think it is right that the Prime Minister takes part in a debate and I would suggest David Cameron listen to them.

"He can only hide from this for so long. Eventually he is going to be dragged into the television studio and have the democratic responsibility of an open, free debate."

In his letter to Downing Street, Mr Salmond said: "I note that you used the centre-piece of your New Year address to attack Scottish independence.

"It seems that you want to dictate the terms of the debate about Scotland's future without taking the democratic responsibility to defend your views in open debate. That is simply unacceptable."

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