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 350.

    @307. Fairypud "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..."
    The vast silent majority in England want Scotland to stay with us in the UK. Please don't be put off by the vociferous minority loons - from both sides - who post here. Shame on the BBC! They must've expected bigoted comments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    Nobody find it curious that there are so many Scots on here arguing that they want to leave Britain/UK and they are doing so on a website run by a British TV company ? The BBC would obviously stop broadcasting in Scotland if it became independant, or maybe they would have BBC Worldwide or whatever its called and be funded through adverts ? There's far more to this than just "independance".

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    @258 you must be right

    "Please, less of the insults - just argue your case. Taking one position or another on independence / union does not make one a xenophobe."

    Why don't you take the time as I've done to read through the comments here, don't say that my comment about xenophobic ones is insulting until you've bothered to read some of the beauties that the moderators have let through!

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    I quite liked the Scots and Scotland until I went to live there for a few years and felt the waves of anti-English sentiment.

    Now back in England I'm not so sure I feel so well-disposed to our neighbours any more which is a shame as we all used to be proud to be British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    Please please please let them go. I'm so sick of the BBC calling us all British. I'm English and Independence for England cannot come soon enough. Then what will the BBC do without all the Scottish Labour votes who prop up the their own welfare state up there. Of course most of you on here are BBC loving labour voters. I'm a 'swing' voter and proud!

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    The world should be looking to break down borders, not build them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    As a Scot I am glad to see Mr. Cameron finally take action on referendums.
    Can someone ask him when he now proposes having one on the EU fiscal arrangements ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    I thought the Idea of the United Kingdom was that we were all in it together not that Scotland can take the benefits of financial security from England and then vanish when the chips are down and England start to struggle.
    Scotland will be knocking back on our door when they realise they cant manage financially without the English Tax Payer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    There is nothing to fear from Scottish independence on either side of the border.
    1603 was a long time ago; there is no fear of a Spanish or French invasion via Scotland anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    @ 318 Mammoth

    "Why can people not see that larger unified nations are more important in the world"

    Like the USSR?

    Possibly not quite reight there then...

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    Good grief! All of this is just inflamatory rubbish for no reason. Having been in the forces, I can tell you that ALL parts of the UK work VERY WELL TOGETHER, with the RIGHT LEADERSHIP. I have no time for either Cameron or Salmond, who both look set to fail Scotland, England and the whole of the UK. I tell you, real,true Scots will want to stay, and real, true Englishmen will want them to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Who would get to vote ~ those who live in Scotland or those who were born in Scotland and still live in the UK? Scots abroad have chosen to bail out of both Scotland & the UK so presumably can be ignored!

    It's a shame these threads becomes Scots v English, Socialist v Conservative. I don't want UK to split but if it does UK will march on & the Scots will join the Euro club. Their choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    The time has come to deal permanently with our corrupt brethren in Westminster...and get our own set of corrupt fools.


  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    "A modern Royal Scottish Defence Force"

    The queue to join will stretch for miles - just what every young Scot dreams of, a 22 year career in a bleak barracks in Glasgow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    If I lived in Scotland I would vote for independance I like Scotland I like the people and have often thought about living there however I live on the South Coast and the climate puts me off but as a country they would be a lot better off

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    I'm English, and I defend the right of the Scots to vote whether to be part of the UK.
    I don't agree with the "half way house" that Alex Salmond proposed as a third option recently without all the UK having a vote - it would affect us all, so it's only fair that we should all have our say.
    As for the timing, the two Parliaments need to agree on a date - no manipulating to get the result you want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    @287.James does calling yourself British hide who you are? You are british! Not english, but British. I was born in Paisley, but lived most of my life in England. I am proud of what I am and where I come from..Great Britian.
    It's funny that you want to call yourself Scottish and Yet Salmand wants to take you into the Euro, where you will be European, not Scottish or British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    At long last a response from the British PM to the Scottish pepeated calls from Alex Salmond for independance, let Scotland have their day. But suddenly calls of foul play are already emminating from Scotland..foul foul it should be us (Scotland) that should decide the timing not England oh yeah WHY? Scotland has long asked for the opportunity. Well Christmas has come early-opportunity`s arrived.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    I'd be sad to see Scotland go, but if it's what they decide then fair enough. Born and bred in Wales, I fully support the UK, it gives Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland a chance to contribute to important global decisions. England would carry on as powerful as ever in the G8 etc.

    Rule Brittannia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    No one in Scotland will see this as anything other than the Tories/Lib/Lab interfering in Scotland's democratic right.....again. Article 1 of the UN charter already gives Scotland a legal right to determine its future. No one in Scotland feels confused about a referendum, it seem to only be a Westminster problem. The sooner we vote for Independence and get rid of Westminster the better.


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