Clegg tells Salmond: Don’t be so jumpy

By Alex Stevenson

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has told Alex Salmond not to be so "jumpy" after the Scottish first minister complained of "bullying" from Westminster.

Mr Clegg's comments came as the pair shared the same stage for a press council after the latest meeting of the British-Irish Council in Dublin.

"I don't think Alex should be so jumpy," he told reporters.

"The position is very straightforward and clear – Alex has got a democratic mandate to put to the British people. It's something Alex has campaigned on all his political life.

"We have a role in the British government to make sure, not least because of all the legal ambiguities, that process is as clear and decisive as possible.

"That's why, far from intimidating or bullying anybody, we've said we will give to the Scottish government the clarity to hold the referendum in a legal and unambigous manner. That is a cooperative thing to do."

Earlier Mr Salmond had declared: "Bullying and hectoring the Scottish people from London ain't gonna work.

"What we're seeing is the most extraordinary attempt to bully and intimidate Scotland by Westminster politicians."

The Scotland Office published its proposals for an independence referendum on Tuesday this week. It stated that a consultative referendum organised by the Scottish parliament would be illegal – a claim disputed by the SNP.

The standoff continued today with Mr Salmond's comments met by equally hostile rhetoric from senior figures in the coalition government.

The first minister himself offered an olive branch in his comment on the issue during this lunchtime's conference by offering talks with the British government after the Scottish government publishes its consultation on independence.

"What I've said to the deputy prime minister… is once we publish the Scottish government's consultation document, I'm very happy to meet the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, in Edinburgh or in London or wherever to talk through these things in a positive way."

Earlier today the deputy prime minister said the nationalists needed to be clearer on whether Scotland would have its own currency, the implications for Britain's defence bases in Scotland and how the national debt would be divided.

"All of these questions, curiously enough, he's got no answers for," he added.

The SNP's chief whip in Westminster, Stewart Hosie, said in an interview for politics.co.uk's weekly podcast that the coalition government's move this week had backfired, however.

"The Scottish people are pretty angry with David Cameron blundering into this," he said.

"We've seen our membership rocket this week, we've seen the opinion polls show independence is going up.

"I think the anti-independence parties were flat-footed on this for months. What they've ended up doing has backfired on them."