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LONDON — Arguing that the centuries-old “ties that bind” Britain together were under threat from Scottish separatism, Prime Minister David Cameron traveled to Edinburgh on Thursday to meet with First Minister Alex Salmond in what was seen here as the first sparring bout of a longer battle over an independence referendum.

But the meeting suggested just how drawn out the dispute could be, with the two leaders casting the results of the talks in starkly different terms.

Salmond said the talks had “moved on quite substantially,” and that the men had narrowed the areas of disagreement, The Associated Press reported. But Cameron said that “on the issue of independence, separating Scotland, leaving the United Kingdom, I am afraid there wasn’t much progress.”

The meeting came after months of maneuvering, with Salmond saying he had been unable to get Cameron to agree to talk. In the end, Cameron coupled the meeting with a speech in Edinburgh in which he reached out directly to the Scottish people, lacing his pragmatic arguments on the financial and military advantages of the union with emotional appeals.

“I am 100 percent clear that I will fight with everything I have to keep our United Kingdom together,” Cameron said. “To me, this is not some issue of policy or strategy or calculation — it matters head, heart and soul. Our shared home is under threat, and everyone who cares about it needs to speak out.”