Plans for two TV referendum debates

ALEX Salmond and Alistair Darling could take part in two head-to-head television debates on Scottish independence in the space of a week.

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A spokesman for the First Minister said they would give "due consideration" to an invitation from the BBC to take part in a TV clash with the Better Together campaign leader on August 12.

Mr Salmond has accepted an invitation from STV to take on Mr Darling on August 5, his spokesman said.

But the Better Together campaign said it was "disappointed" that the STV debate would not take place on July 16, as the broadcaster had originally planned.

The First Minister has repeatedly insisted he should debate with David Cameron over Scotland's future in the UK ahead of September's referendum, although the Prime Minister has consistently refused to do so.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon indicated at the weekend that "should the Prime Minister continue to duck this debate, the First Minister is willing to take on Alistair Darling as the Tories' nominated substitute".

Broadcaster STV wrote to both Mr Salmond and Mr Darling last week, asking them to appear in front of an audience of 500 at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh on July 16.

Better Together said it had accepted that offer, with a spokesman for the campaign saying: "We are disappointed that STV have now repudiated their own date after Alex Salmond refused to take part, despite the First Minister indicating publicly that he was free that day."

A spokesman for the First Minister said: "We have only received a formal invite from the BBC today (Wednesday) and will give it due consideration. We will continue to pursue a debate with David Cameron but have accepted STV's proposal."

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