Referendum agreement 'by October'

An agreement between the Scottish and UK governments over the independence referendum by October is "realistic and achievable", the Scotland Office Minister has said.

David Mundell spoke after talks with Bruce Crawford, the Secretary for Parliamentary Business and Government Strategy in Alex Salmond's SNP administration.

The Scottish Government has put forward plans to hold a vote on the country's constitutional future in the autumn of 2014, with its timetable including bringing forward a referendum Bill early next year.

But the UK Government believes for that to happen the two governments must agree how the key ballot will be staged by October.

As constitutional issues are reserved, a legal order known as a section 30 order could be used to temporarily extend Holyrood's powers to enable it to stage the referendum.

This would need to be agreed by both the Scottish and UK parliaments, before being approved by the Privy Council - a formal body of advisers to the Queen - in February.

Agreeing the terms of the section 30 order in October could allow for this to happen.

After the talks, Mr Mundell said both administrations had agreed that for the Scottish Government to meet its timetable for the referendum a section 30 order must be approved by the February Privy Council.

The Scotland Office Minister said there had been "a positive step forward" at the meeting with Mr Crawford.

However, a spokesman for Mr Crawford insisted that "no final conclusions" were reached about the timetable.