Scottish independence: Meeting set to seal referendum deal

 

First Minister Alex Salmond says an agreement still has to be finalised

The prime minister has said he will meet Scotland's first minister next week to agree the final deal over a referendum on Scottish independence.

Although some final details have yet to be ironed out, David Cameron told the Conservative Party conference he would meet Alex Salmond on Monday.

Mr Salmond stressed the final deal had not yet been fully agreed.

And he said speculation from the Conservative conference was "not helpful".

The BBC understands that the meeting between the two political leaders will be held in Edinburgh.

Although a few areas of disagreement remain, primarily on the issue of campaign finance, a package of measures has been agreed.

So where are we anent the discussions on the independence referendum?

Progress, progress - but the deal is not yet entirely done.

And there remains at least one significant item of potential disagreement.

That item is campaign funding - or, more precisely, the legal limits to be imposed upon those seeking to finance efforts to win your support.

To be clear, this does not cover money spent just now by the campaign teams. Within voluntary rules, they can pretty much spend what they like - if they can raise it and justify the cost.

This covers the formal campaign period in the run up to the final vote in October 2014. It is expected that period will be longer than for a general election, perhaps 12 to 16 weeks.

It is understood the final deal will see the referendum - which will be held before the end of 2014 - ask a single yes/no question on whether Scotland should become an independent country.

Measures will also be included to allow Holyrood to extend the vote to those aged over 16 in Scotland.

And Holyrood will be formally handed legal powers to hold the referendum under what is known as a Section 30 order.

Speaking at the conference in Birmingham, Mr Cameron said Britain's success at the London Olympics showed "something important".

He added: "Whether our athletes were Scottish, Welsh, English or from Northern Ireland, they draped themselves in one flag.

"There was, of course, one person who didn't like that. He's called Alex Salmond. I'm going to go and see him on Monday to sort out that referendum on independence by the end of 2014.

"There are many things I want this coalition government to do but what could be more important than saving our United Kingdom?"

Mr Salmond said he was "hopeful" that he and Mr Cameron would be able to sign an agreement next week - but stressed the deal was not yet completely done.

David Cameron and Alex Salmond Mr Cameron and Mr Salmond are expected to meet next week in Edinburgh

He said: "I don't think people should announce an agreement has been made until it is made. That is just a foolish thing to do. I think people often get a bit over enthusiastic in the evenings of their party conferences, perhaps.

"There are still issues. You have to bottom out an agreement. There's no point in leaving loose ends which come back to haunt you later."

Mr Salmond said the referendum had to be "built and made in Scotland for the Scottish people to determine our own future".

He added: "Hopefully we will have something next week that the prime minister and I can put our names too, but the deal ain't done yet."

Telephone call

It comes after "substantial progress" was made during a telephone call between Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore on Monday.

The pair had held a series of face-to-face meetings in recent weeks as they attempted to reach a compromise.

A joint statement issued by the Scottish government and the Scotland Office after Mr Moore and Ms Sturgeon's latest conversation said: "Further substantial progress towards agreement was reached this afternoon between the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Secretary of State Michael Moore.

"Officials have now been tasked with doing some further work on the final detail of the agreement.

"We are however on track for the full agreement, including the terms of a Section 30 order, to be presented to the First Minister and the Prime Minister over the next few days."

The BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, said the deal - if it is finalised - would be presented as "a compromise involving concessions by both sides".

The SNP is understood to have accepted a single question referendum, as opposed to two questions including one on greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, while the UK government has abandoned its opposition to giving 16 and 17-year-olds a vote.

 

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  • rate this
    -38

    Comment number 60.

    Why is there to be a Scotland only referendum on anything? I really don't get this. Legally and consitutionally we are one country and here is a decision about massive and irrevocable constitutional change. So why is no-one assuming that there must be a vote by all the people in the UK? Does no-one believe in democracy anymore?

  • rate this
    -24

    Comment number 69.

    @ 61 Sian Williams

    But i dont see how anyone in Scotland can expect the normal English people to want to be associated with Scotland if it does become independent. Forget Westminster,its not just them your going to slap in the face is it??? and please,dont even TRY to deny that there is no Anglophobic notions within the SNP,because its glaringly obvious there IS....

  • rate this
    -21

    Comment number 28.

    start planning for Scottish independence right now. Put on hold any planned Westminster financed investment in Scotland. Give the English a vote on any contentious particularities - such as what should happen with the currency etc.

  • rate this
    -20

    Comment number 115.

    Why as a citizen of the United Kingdon am I not being asked to vote on the break up of my country?

    As you may gather I don't live in Scotland

  • rate this
    -19

    Comment number 102.

    96- FOOLS GOLD- PROMISE, PROMISE, PROMISE, SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, ERR BORROW, BORROW, BORROW.

    GOODBYE UK, SEPERATISTS- SAY HELLO TO EU BAILOUT AND REAL AUSTERITY ONCE THE PENNY/ EUROCENT DROPS...

 

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