ALEX Salmond is in denial about the prospect of a vote against independence, according to the shadow foreign secretary.

Douglas Alexander, Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, criticised the First Minister after the SNP leader revealed his plan for a cross-party team to negotiate the terms of independence.

Mr Alexander is calling for the SNP and other independence campaigners to work with Labour after a No vote to "make devolution work". He did not say whether he would accept the First Minister's offer. "I regard myself as part of a Scottish team at the moment with Alistair Darling, with Gordon Brown, with Margaret Curran, with Johann Lamont, the millions of us who want to stay with our friends, families and neighbours across the UK," he said.

"My leader, Johann Lamont, has made clear that Scottish Labour is here to stay. If the Yes side was to win the referendum on September 18 we would continue to seek to serve the people in the communities of Scotland.

"Look at the most recent opinion poll. There was a 20-point gap between what the First Minister is claiming and what the facts suggest, so my focus is going to be on delivering those poll results into votes in the ballot box."

The Progressive Scottish Opinion poll, published at the weekend, suggested 54% support a No vote compared with 34% for Yes, with the remainder yet to decide. A poll last month suggested the Yes campaign was just three points behind.

The competing invitations to work together were made by the two opponents as they marked 15 years since the establishment of the devolved Scottish Parliament.Mr Salmond said: "The independence team will secure expertise from across the political spectrum and beyond, from Scotland and beyond, to begin talks with Westminster before the end of this September, marking the point at which the real negotiations will begin."

Mr Alexander yesterday attended a Holyrood anniversary event with Sir Kenneth Calman, chair of the Calman Commission which brought about the further devolution of power through the 2012 Scotland Act. Mr Alexander said: "Alex Salmond's question reflects his denial of where we stand, which is that consistently the polls have indicated that while he secured a handsome victory in 2011, on this issue he doesn't speak for Scotland."