Alex Salmond
Former SNP first minister Alex Salmond insists he is ready to waltz into a debate against "any corner on the anti-European side”Stefan Rousseau/Reuters

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has agreed to go toe-to-toe with former Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond in a debate over the EU referendum. Salmond issued the challenge, saying he would be "delighted" to take on Farage, or indeed "any corner on the anti-European side".

As pressure increases on Prime Minister David Cameron to participate in a public debate ahead of a potential June vote on the UK's membership of the EU, Salmond took a dig at the leader, saying he has been "tentative and sensitive about debating with people in recent history."

"I don't know if they've quite decided who they will be fielding yet," Salmond said on Sky's Murnaghan programme. "They seem to have spent a lot of time fighting with each other. That's the sort of folk they are. But yes, of course you debate all comers in a referendum campaign.

"If I may say so it has been Mr Cameron who's been tentative and sensitive about debating with people in recent history." Cameron refused to take part in a one-on-one debate with former Labour leader Ed Miliband ahead of last year's general election. And as five party leaders went head-to-head on the BBC in a challengers debate before the nationwide vote, the most searched-for question on Google was: "Why is David Cameron not at the debate?"

Responding to Salmond's throwdown, Ukip said that Farage is "absolutely up for it", but that the debate needs to be wider than just a one-on-one with the MSP. "Mr Farage is delighted to debate Mr Salmond, however he feels there are plenty of other Scots who should be there on both sides of the argument," a Ukip spokesman told Sky News.

"Salmond is trying to frame this as UKIP vs Scotland, which it isn't," he added. "He is setting up a false perspective – that Scotland wants to stay in the EU and only nasty English people want out. This isn't true – there are strong Scottish voices who want out too."

The former Scottish first minister warned that if the UK votes to leave the EU, Cameron will be left with little alternative other than to resign. "He won't have a choice in the matter. If he loses the referendum then he'll be shown the door as indeed will the Chancellor George Osborne," Salmond said. "It's untenable to try and maintain a position if you lose a referendum and, what is it they used to say in the Conservative Party a long time ago, you would have to do the honourable thing."

YouTube, Buzzfeed and the Telegraph have offered to co-host a debate in the run-up to the in/out referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.