British Prime Minister David Cameron offered on Sunday to hold talks with Scottish leader Alex Salmond to thrash out their differences over arrangements for a referendum on Scottish independence that could lead to a break-up of the United Kingdom.
His offer followed a day of manoeuvring between the government and Salmond's devolved Scottish administration as both sides competed for the high ground in an increasingly acrimonious debate over the future of the 300-year-old union between Scotland and England.
Salmond said this week he wanted to hold a referendum in late 2014 on breaking away from the rest of Britain, while Cameron has said it should be held sooner rather than later to dispel uncertainty he says is damaging the Scottish economy.
Cameron and all the main British parties want to keep the United Kingdom intact while Salmond's Scottish National Party (SNP) campaigns for Scottish independence.
The prime minister has made it clear he is happy to meet Alex Salmond and arrangements for that will be made in the coming days, a spokeswoman for Cameron said, saying no date had been set for the meeting.
Two opinion polls published on Sunday showed support for Scottish independence is stronger among English voters than it is among Scots.
The polls may reflect a view in some parts of Britain that Scotland gains financially from the current UK set-up, which gives its devolved parliament power over issues like health and education, funded by a grant from British government coffers.
The SNP says that view does not take account of North Sea oil revenues, which flow to the Treasury in London. An independent Scotland could lay claim to a large part of those revenues.
Both polls found Scottish opponents of independence leading supporters, although their lead in one poll was slim.
The SNP won a majority in Scottish elections last year, putting Salmond in a strong position to push for a referendum. The British government intervened last week, saying the Scottish government could not legally hold a referendum but offered to allow one under certain conditions.