Cameron denies 'dictating' terms of Scottish referendum


The future of Scotland should be decided by the Scottish people, says Nicola Sturgeon

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David Cameron has said he is not trying to "dictate" the terms of a Scottish independence referendum.

Government sources have denied reports Westminster would set an 18-month limit on holding the poll, if it transfers powers for a binding vote to Holyrood.

But ministers may insist on a "yes or no" vote on independence - without the option of more powers for Scotland.

Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Westminster of "trying to interfere in Scottish democracy".

But Mr Cameron said he wanted the vote to be "legal, fair and decisive".

Advisory only

The Scottish National Party has pledged to hold a referendum in the latter half of its term, with 2014 thought to be the preferred date.

The UK government is expected to say that Scotland can hold a referendum on any subject it chooses but the result would only have advisory status and could be open to legal challenge.

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The scottish secretary will say a vote organised by the Scottish government would be purely advisory and open to legal challenge since the power to change Scotland's constitutional status rests with Westminster”

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It is expected to confirm that Westminster could formally transfer additional powers to Holyrood to allow it to hold a binding referendum.

But BBC political editor Nick Robinson said conditions could be attached to that transfer, including ruling out a third choice in any vote - for greater powers to be devolved to Scotland without full independence - which Mr Cameron fears could split the unionist vote.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore will make a statement to the Commons on Tuesday, he added, outlining the government's opinion on the legal status of an independence referendum.

It had also been reported that Downing Street could set a time limit, possibly 18 months, on any binding vote, but government sources have denied this.

'Decisive question'

Mr Cameron told Sky News he wanted to resolve that "legal uncertainty" and wanted to work with the Scottish government to give the people of Scotland the option of "a fair and more decisive question", put earlier rather than later.

"But we're not going to dictate this, this is something we want to resolve, the legal position," he added.

David Cameron: "I strongly support the United Kingdom"

But amid reports of a possible time limit, Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Mr Cameron of "a blatant attempt to interfere" in a decision that should be for the Scottish government and Scottish people.

"It's the attachment of conditions that gives the game away - this is Westminster trying to interfere," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Perhaps I should be relaxed about that because the more a Tory government tries to interfere in Scottish democracy then I suspect the greater the support for independence will be, but there is a key issue of democratic principle here.

"The SNP was elected on a clear prospectus and it's right that now that we have the mandate we can proceed on that basis."

Legal challenge

The prime minister's spokesman said the 1998 Scotland Act, which brought about devolution, made clear that constitutional issues were reserved for Westminster.

"Clearly, a number of independent commentators and legal experts have highlighted the fact that a referendum Bill passed by the Scottish Parliament could be open to legal challenge," he added.

The BBC's Lorna Gordon has been gauging reaction in Scotland to the referendum

Ms Sturgeon said referendums in the UK were always "consultative and advisory" so talk of a binding vote was unnecessary.

She said the SNP would prefer a straight yes/no referendum, but there was "a significant body of opinion" in Scotland which was in favour of financial independence, but not full political independence.

The Scottish government's website states that, even if a non-binding referendum was held: "The moral and political force of a vote for independence would be enormous, and impossible for a future government to ignore. A negative vote would similarly have a political consequence."


But Conservative peer Lord Forsyth, a former Scottish secretary, said the SNP had not set a firm date for a referendum because they knew the majority of people were currently opposed to full independence and "they are afraid they will lose it".

"They want to spend the next two or three years creating resentment on both sides of the border," he told BBC Radio 4's World At One.

"It is quite extraordinary that the party which stands for independence for Scotland won't take yes for an answer from David Cameron when he says the Scottish people can decide".

Chancellor George Osborne led discussions on Scotland at Monday's cabinet meeting and set out his concerns about the impact of uncertainty over a referendum on Scotland's economy. The PM's spokesman said both Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne had been told in private by business leaders that uncertainty was deterring inward investment.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont told the BBC a vote should take place "as soon as possible" on "a clear question".

"It's necessary for the people of Scotland to be given the opportunity to decide their constitutional future sooner rather than later in order that the uncertainty around the economy, around business and all the rest of it is addressed," she said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    It looks like English commentators here have forgotten that David Cameron himself is a scot fighting for his country's independence and keeping England under scottish administration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.


    "Not entirely democratic, what if Scotland voted 'Yes' and England voted 'No'?"

    Would it be more democratic for 5 million in Scotland to decide on the future of the UK, over and and above the wishes of 50 million in England?

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    To all those who keep saying the SNP Scottish Government was elected on an independence platform, with a mandate for independence.

    No, the SNP does NOT have a mandate for independence; the voters of Scotland did NOT give any such thing!

    The fact is that the SNP achieved knowhere near sufficient votes overall from the ELIGIBLE electorate to achieve the required 51% for a majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    As Scottish nationalist, It has always been my dream to see independence for Scotland. We can all comment on who's better off without who and so on, but wouldn't It be in the interest for both nations to go there own way and see the outcome. I for one would like to see Scotland do well on it's own than watch it suffer as part of a union that is long past it's sell by date!

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Only 2 Kingdoms form the United Kingdom, if Scotland leaves, then your left with one Kingdom, being England, calling England the United Kingdom will be akin to Serbia clinging on to the title 'Yugoslavia'
    Cameron and the rest of the unionist cabal with their Libdem Lapdogs ar a complete joke. If Cameron tries anything to prevent democracy, he wll have to answer to the UN

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    I expect the BBC will be promoting Scottish separatism as much as they can, as it suits their pro-EU agenda. Internal division will weaken the UK - and make it easier for the EU/Germans to rule us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Stuff Cameron - Stuff the Coalition - Stuff Westminster

    The anti-indpendence parties opposed a referendum on Scottish independence. The SNP clearly won a mandate from the Scottish people to hold a referendum in the second half of their elected term of office. Cameron, an English Tory MP, has no say on this matter, none whatsoever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Nationalism causes more wars than religion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    I would have thought that a binding, in/out referendum would be welcomed by the SNP. It's for the Scots to decide their future but dithering on the form and timing of the vote impacts on the UK as a whole.

    The situation is like a football team where one player is considering a transfer. If they're not committed it impacts on team performance & morale ~ commit, leave or be dropped from the team.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    As much as I love the idea of an indepandant Scotland, I can't see any real benefit. All Scotland's forces are HMAF, loyal to the Queen, so we would be defenceless. As for the SNP, I am no fan of Alex Salmond, due to his campaigns for a nuclear free Scotland, meaning less power generated, and the closure of HMNB Clyde.

    But prove me wrong people

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    I’m half Scot half English but 100% British. I think all this talk of breaking up the UK is broadly done by Politian’s to serve their own political interests. The introduction of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly has been a wise giving the necessary autonomy to govern as needed for those countries and communities. But in this changing world we need to stand together not fall apart.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    @176 ruimon

    You do know that London receives more public sector spending per head than Scotland does don't you? And you do know that there are more people living in London than in Scotland? Can we assume that you would like this much larger "imbalance" to be removed from the UK as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Let Salmond lead the poor Scots down the road, independence for the Shetland Isles great one. When the oil runs out the scots will want compensation. Be careful what you wish Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    197. erzan
    >>>People shrug their shoulders at the break up if the United Kingdom, ignoring the real and serious consequences to our economy

    Sure, there are some comments on here from Scots and English that could be characterised as brainless belligerence. but many others which more thoughtfully touch on the issues you point out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    If Scotland were to gain independence how this effect the rights of Scottish Nationals to stand for election as a an English MP? As I understand it currently nationals from other counties ie France Germany etc are only allowed to stand for local government seats

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    @194. arjomac

    @suchan104 - Scottish banks worked under Westminsters rules and overseen by UK regulators, any failings were condoned by an inefficient system.
    ...and who ran Westminster at the time ariomac, or have you forgotten? We had a regulatory system set up by Scotsman Brown who broke up the regulatory system that had worked for decades because he thought he knew better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    The only arroganceis from that too much Braveheart Scot who believes devolution would be anything other than a massive boost for England. I am sick of hearing "if you do/don't do this we'll leave." Of you pop then, you can get on with taxing yourselves into oblivions, voting in the SDP, closer ties with Euro, stop voting in our parliament and pay for you own perks. Can you take Wales with you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    @198 Alex

    No - Scottish residents should vote, and only Scottish residents.

    If you apportion votes to those born in Scotland and now living elsewhere, what of the English born counterparts who now live in Scotland? Or Anyone else for that matter. This would smack of a racist and xenophobic policy, which is not what is needed. If you want to vote here, leave your job in London and move here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    It is my opinion that a referendum on Scottish independence held only in England would decisively vote in favour of a permanent split. At last we would be rid of all those wingeing Scots banging on about how unfairly they are treated by England whilst freely spending the remittances of English tax payers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Misunderstanding between a country and a union. The argument stands, though, that all opinions should be considered. SNP want a 3-tier question to gain more devolution, instead of autonomy. Cameron thinks his ploy will shoot independence dead in the water. However, Scotland is much more socialist than England, and might just surprise him. What a way to be remembered - the PM who lost a country!


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