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.

Start Quote

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 310.

    '110. Victoria
    Independence may sound like a great thing but one is to know what to do with it and what it means! I think the scottish independence would be more of a benefit for people of England than Scotland!'

    Frankly Madam you are an idiot. Do not believe what you read in the Tory newspapers. Open your eyes to what is really going on. The Great con continues.

  • Comment number 309.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    Let's assume the economy recovers slightly at the time of the independence and can support itself with EU and oil. But then what will happen to Scotland when the oil run out? What happen if there is a crisis on Eurozone and a breakup of EU? Is Scotland going to beg their way back to UK when things aren't good or stay as independence no matter what?

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    I am a Scottish person who loves going down to England, and am not in favour of independence. However, after reading some of the comments posted here I am detecting some fervent anti-scottishness, which may make me re-think my ideas. Why do you want to get rid of us so much?

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    IThe Conservative and Unionist Party has done more(through it's policies) to promote the growth of nationalist parties and a desire for independence, than any other.
    Cameron's latest ploy is to bulldoze a referendum on his terms, which he assumes will deliver a no vote, which will end the debate.
    It will seen as a Whitehall diktat, by a party virtually unelectable in Scotland.
    Another mess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    The whole of the U.K. should have the opportunity to vote on an independant Scotland or any other part of the Union who wishes to leave.
    If there is a problem with North Sea Oil, let Scotland have the benefit of it, as long as they take RBS back as well!

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    54.S Belcher
    1 Hour ago
    We should grant the Scots their independence from the UK, then immediately stage a military invasion.
    Yeah that's work, cos the one thing the Scots can't do is fight.
    Go and count how many Scots are in the British military, then you may want to reconsider invading them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    Any decision that affects the economy and constitution of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish should be taken with the English, Welsh and Northern Irish and not by Scotland alone.

    Having lived in Scotland my feeling is however that the majority of the Scots are quite happy with the Union. If they vote to stay where does Salmond go then?.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    I never thought they would be discussing breaking up the union before they came to a conclusion over the second river crossing in Norfolk ... We still have to use a ferry you know !

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    An English, Tory Prime Minister dictating to Scotland whether they vote on leaving the Union.
    A PR loser already North of the Border, more votes lost at the next election.
    The only fear in Scottish Independence- the Welsh choice will be independence or joining English serf's in perpetual Tory Govt.
    England's economy would then collapse.
    Voting Squire only guarantees one job, the Squire's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    As the Scots have always been able to vote on English issues, why can't the English vote on Scottish Independence? Sauce for the goose, etc...

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    This, of course, has nothing to do with politicians building power bases for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    265. Ron666. I have been advocating that England become independent of the UK for quite some time. It is an excellent idea. The UK Establishment/government is mostly evil in my view (not entirely of course). England should strive to free itself of the tyranny of the UK. Only a year ago I still supported the UK and pleaded with the Scots to stay, now I wish to see the UK and Westminster dissolved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.


    Perhaps Pounds Sterling? That "sterling" comes, of course, from the city now known as "Stirling", so it may mean that England have to change their currency instead."

    No-one quite knows where the term 'sterling' comes from but the idea that it comes from the name 'Stirling' is certainly a new one for the entymologists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Scotland is a beautiful country.

    If only it would stand alone - free from rule by the south of England - it could be so much better!

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    @265 Ron666
    Because as you highlight in your post with the vast amount of 'dozens', there are more English and other combinations of UK citizens who don't want that to happen.
    Are you whingeing about people whingeing??
    'You wouldn't be missed by any of them' - interesting hatred of such a diverse nation. How many Scottish/Welsh/English/Irish people are related these days??

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    A modern Royal Scottish Defence Force will do a far better job at protecting our nation than any British equilvalent.

    ...Way to go insulting every British member of the forces that has given everything/prepared to sacrifice everything to protect your freedoms. No really, you should be proud of yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Lets hope that the Scots win their separation vote and we can repatriate all of the government jobs back to areas where they are needed in England and we can plan the economy without relying on a shrinking oil supply.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Good for Scotland, I hope as a nation that whatever happens reflects the desires of the people who live there. However, I am curious to see how secession from the UK to achieve closer integration with the EU, i.e. out of one Union and into another, can be seen as 'independence'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Whether Scotland is independent of the UK or not, it will still be run by Rupert Murdoch either way. Without Murdoch's tabloids Salmond would not have won in Scotland and Cameron would not have won in the UK.

    Look at the Sheridan case, the only ever prosecution for perjury in a court. Who runs the Crown Prosecution, the Queen or Murdoch?


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