UK & World News
Downing Street 'Asked Obama To Back Union'
US President Barack Obama was asked to weigh into the Scottish independence debate by the UK government, according to Sky sources.
The President was asked about the issue during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron after the G7 summit in Brussels last Friday.
He told reporters: "There is a referendum process in place and it is up to the people of Scotland.
"The United Kingdom has been an extraordinary partner to us. From the outside at least, it looks like things have worked pretty well.
"And we obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner.
"But ultimately these are decisions that are to be made by the folks there."
'No' campaigners seized on the US president's comments as evidence that the UK is better off staying together.
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond also responded to Mr Obama's remarks last week by insisting independence would in fact give the US "two great friends" and make Scotland a land of opportunity.
Sky's Niall Paterson, in Edinburgh, said: "I have been speaking with a very senior source in the Scottish government who tells me he recently had a conversation with a similarly senior source within the US administration - very close to President Obama himself - who confirmed that President Obama's remarks on Scottish independence followed a direct request from the UK government.
"More than that, the senior source within the US government claimed that President Obama's remarks represented the minimum that they could say.
"I think, essentially, there are three ways you can look at all of this. First, that my source within the Scottish government is perhaps telling porkies, 100 days out from the referendum, to make political hay.
"The second way of looking at this is of course international leaders do speak to each other all the time, officials speak to each other all the time, and frankly, President Obama at a press conference such as that should have expected to receive a question on Scottish independence.
"He was never going to say, 'I think an independent Scotland would be a great thing'.
"The third way to look at it, if this is all true, is that perhaps figures within the Scottish government such as the First Minister Alex Salmond would make the point that if David Cameron is having to request the assistance of the US president to weigh into the Scottish independence referendum debate then perhaps it is not the 'Yes' campaign that is on the back foot, it is the 'Better Together' campaign."
There are now 100 days to go before voters north of the border vote on whether Scotland should be an independent country.