The Scottish first minister said on Sunday he would talk to other parties about offering the voters a second choice known as "fiscal autonomy" within the UK, rather than a straight yes or no vote on Scotland moving to complete independence.
Speaking on the BBC's Politics Show, Salmond indicated he would work with opposition parties and other interest groups on the alternative question. "I'm very open to discussion and dialogue. Just because we got a majority in the Scottish parliament doesn't mean we've got a monopoly of wisdom," he said. "I will listen to what people have to say. I don't just listen to the SNP."
His offer came as a deep split emerged in the Tory party after senior Conservatives, including the Scotland Office minister David Mundell, said Salmond should be forced into staging a snap referendum rather than dragging out the debate for another four years. Mundell was joined by Murdo Fraser, deputy leader of the Scottish party, and Lord Forsyth, who was Scottish secretary in the previous Conservative government, in questioning a promise by David Cameron this weekend that the UK government would not interfere in Salmond's referendum plans.
Mundell, the only Tory MP in Scotland, said Westminster could get involved if an early referendum was rejected by the Scottish parliament. "Westminster obviously has a direct interest in this matter and could always get involved. I think it is perfectly legitimate for a referendum to be brought on," he said.
But Michael Moore, the Scottish secretary in the UK cabinet and Mundell's boss at the Scotland Office, immediately ruled out any prospect of the coalition government calling a snap referendum. Cameron told Salmond on Friday night that Westminster would not interfere with the Scottish parliament or raise legal or constitutional barriers to the plebiscite. Moore said: "As a UK government we will not be putting obstacles in the way of any referendum." (read more)