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 talks on Monday, 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.
Mr Mundell said: "We kicked off this process back in January. The issues have not changed in the past eight months and we really need to use the next two months to ensure we deliver a referendum that is legal, fair and decisive.
"I am very confident that an agreement can be struck. We all agree that a section 30 order is the best way to deliver a legal referendum. All the main political parties agree that a single question on independence is what they prefer."
The UK Government minister continued: "We want to make it legal for the Scottish Parliament to hold an independence referendum. That is our objective. From this starting point, and the goodwill we are bringing to the process, agreement between the two governments by October is realistic and achievable."
He added that he hoped the First Minister would now "respond positively" to Scottish Secretary Michael Moore's offer of talks to discuss such matters.
Mr Crawford's spokesman said there had been a "constructive meeting" with Mr Mundell, and said the two politicians planned to meet again.
He stated: "No final conclusions were reached today on a timetable, further work needs to be done, and therefore we look forward to continuing the discussions."
He reiterated the Scottish Government's view that Holyrood, not Westminster, should determine how and when the referendum is held.
Mr Crawford's spokesman said: "As we have always said, we have absolutely no objection to a section 30 order in regard to the referendum, with no Westminster strings attached — which could be agreed very shortly.
"The terms and timing of the referendum must be decided in Scotland, by the Scottish Parliament, not imposed by Westminster, and the Prime Minister has already conceded the autumn 2014 timescale."
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