Scottish independence: Cameron and Salmond strike referendum deal

Prime Minister David Cameron Prime Minister David Cameron meets First Minister Alex Salmond at St Andrew's House in Edinburgh
David Cameron and Alex Salmond The political leaders shake hands ahead of signing the referendum agreement
David Cameron, Michael Moore, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon A photocall takes place with David Cameron, Michael Moore, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon
Alex Salmond and David Cameron The agreement is signed by the leaders of the Scottish and UK governments
Referendum deal signatures Negotiators Michael Moore and Nicola Sturgeon also place their signatures on the document
Alex Salmond In a news conference following the agreement, Alex Salmond says it has been a historic day for Scotland

A deal setting out terms for a Scottish independence referendum has been signed by Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond.

The agreement, struck in Edinburgh, has paved the way for a vote in autumn 2014, with a single Yes/No question on Scotland leaving the UK.

It will also allow 16 and 17-year-olds to take part in the ballot.

The SNP secured a mandate to hold the referendum after its landslide Scottish election win last year.

The UK government, which has responsibility over constitutional issues, will grant limited powers to the Scottish Parliament to hold a legal referendum, under a mechanism called Section 30.

David Cameron says the agreement includes "one simple, straightforward question"

The deal will also commit both governments to working together constructively in the best interests of the people of Scotland, whatever the outcome of the referendum.

Mr Salmond said the agreement would mean a referendum "made in Scotland", while the prime minister said keeping the United Kingdom together was his number one priority.

The deal will provide for:

  • A statutory order to be legislated at Westminster, granting Holyrood powers to hold a single-question independence referendum by the end of 2014 and covering other issues like campaign broadcasts.
  • A "memorandum of agreement" to be signed by political leaders confirming the details of the referendum will be settled at Holyrood.
  • A significant role for the Electoral Commission watchdog in advising on the wording of the question, the running of the referendum and areas including campaign finance.

A possible second question on greater powers has been dropped.

Speaking after the deal was signed at the headquarters of the Scottish government, St Andrew's House, the prime minister told BBC News: "This is the right decision for Scotland.

Real arguments

But it's also right for the United Kingdom that there is going to be one, simple, straightforward question about whether Scotland wants to stay in the United Kingdom or separate itself from the United Kingdom, and that referendum has to be held before the end of 2014.

The editors - Analysis

Nick Robinson, Brian Taylor and Douglas Fraser
  • Nick Robinson, BBC political editor - "They shake hands. They smile for the cameras. They hail an agreement which allows the people of Scotland to determine their own future. However, both men will know that there can only be one winner......" Read more
  • Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor - "As he briefed the media about today's agreement, Alex Salmond confided that he had been told by his advisers: do not look triumphalist. Plainly, they know their man....." Read more
  • Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland business editor - "The price of a third-generation iPad. That seems to be enough to swing the independence referendum. If independence made them £500 better off, 65% of Scots told one poll they'd vote for it. But if it made them as much worse off, only 21%......" Read more

"I always wanted to show respect to the people of Scotland - they voted for a party that wanted to have a referendum, I've made that referendum possible and made sure that it is decisive, it is legal and it is fair."

Mr Cameron added: "Now we've dealt with the process, we should get on with the real arguments, and I passionately believe Scotland will be better off in the United Kingdom but also, crucially, the United Kingdom will be better off with Scotland."

Mr Salmond said the deal, which he described as the "Edinburgh Agreement", paved the way for the most important political decision Scotland had made in several hundred years.

He added: "It is in that sense a historic day for Scotland and I think a major step forward in Scotland's home rule journey.

"The Edinburgh Agreement means that we will have a referendum in two years' time which will be built and made in the Scottish Parliament on behalf of the Scottish people. I think that is a substantial and important step forward."

Mr Salmond said the respective campaigns could now move on from discussion over process and "get on with the substantive arguments".

He went on: "Do I believe that independence will win this campaign? Yes I do. And I believe we will win it by setting out a positive vision for a better future for our country, both economically and, crucially, also socially.

"It is that vision of a prosperous and compassionate society, a confident society moving forward in Scotland, which will carry the day."

When asked whether he had an exact date in mind for the referendum, and whether he would share it, Mr Salmond replied: "Yes, and no".

First Minister Alex Salmond says the agreement on a referendum on Scottish independence is 'a historic day for Scotland'

He said the Scottish government had still to publish the results of its consultation on the referendum, which would happen in the "near future".

The deal was negotiated between Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, a Liberal Democrat MP, and Scotland's deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said she was pleased a deal had been reached, adding: "Alex Salmond has the right to ask the question and now people have right to answer it.

"But we cannot allow this debate to distract from some of the real problems being faced by families in Scotland, things the SNP could act on now."

"Alex Salmond offers people only one solution to Scotland's problems - a referendum on independence - but his timetable makes us wait another two years to have our say."

What happens now?

October 2012

  • Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond sign the referendum agreement
  • A Section 30 order transferring the rights to hold a referendum to Holyrood
  • The findings of the Scottish government's Your Scotland, Your Referendum consultation will be published

Autumn/winter 2012

  • Electoral Commission begins the practical preparations, including testing the fairness and clarity of the question

February 2013

  • The Section 30 Order will be agreed by the Privy Council

Spring 2013

  • The Referendum Bill comes before Holyrood

October 2013

  • MSPs take part in the crucial Stage 3 vote at the Scottish Parliament

November 2013

  • Royal Assent is given to the bill
  • The Scottish government will publish a White Paper - what it calls its "prospectus for independence". Other parties will also put forward their vision for the future of Scotland

Summer 2014

  • The pro-independence and anti-independence campaigns intensify

Autumn 2014

  • The Scottish independence referendum takes place

(Source:BBC Scotland's Sunday Politics Scotland)


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  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    Can Scotland really survive financially independent and who would determine how much of the total UK debt they take on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    672. brightonmummy
    So, you want scottish independence...but you don't actually want to live there?
    Funny, I didn't think Sean Connery posted on these forums.

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    Good luck to the Scots. I just hope they don't get lured into the Euro and end up in a Boom and Bust mess like Ireland.

  • Comment number 734.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    I've always been told that it was the Scots who hated the English but from reading some of this bile I see it's the opposite on this forum. I am proud to be Scottish first and consider myself British second as many south of the border will see themselves as English first. What is British? Too many people harking back to the good old days of a bygone era of "Great Britain" who ruled the waves

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    Its a pity that those of us who live in England have no say whether we want Scotland to be part of the United Kingdom. The question is always do Scotland want to be part of the United Kingdom. As regards the referendum I hope that the final decision will not be based on a 50% plus vote of a not representative turnout.

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    40 Minutes ago
    "I've yet to hear a compelling bit of real evidence for independence being the best choice....."

    And is there compelling evidence being shown why we should stay in the union?

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    No doubt Sean Conner y will fly in from Switzerland urge everyone to vote for Independence then fly back to Switzerland PDQ.

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    All the negative , patronising , scaremongering tactics from the Westminster parties isn't a wise move .
    Eu membership will be optional , as will Euro or sterling . Westminster spending in Scotland is exactly what it pays in all types of taxation . Large companies are used to working in countries the world over . Scottish NHS , Education , Councils etc are already autonomous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    Whether one agrees with independence or not, I think that the people of Scotland have the right to hold a referendum which will hopefully clear up this issue once and for all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    This vote will be ultimately be decided by SW Labour voting Scots. The question they have to ask themselves is do they vote for independence and live in a country that will be free of Tory rule for the foreseeable future or do they vote for the union and endure possibly decades of future Tory rule. A vote for the union is a vote for the Tories.

  • Comment number 726.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    I am English and happy to be so. If Scotland want independence then good luck to them though I suspect they will vote no in the end. However why can't we have a vote on whether we want to remain tied to Scotland and have Scottish MPs making decisions about the future of England

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    Both Scotland and England will be stronger when the Scots vote for independence. This could happen if both sides took a positive atitude to the issue. Scotland would have to stand on its own feet and we would grow which would assist our biggest trade partner. Most countries who gained independence from the Empire have remained good friends and trade partners with England.

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    So what happens in the event of a yes vote?
    Parliament to be dissolved, and we vote on type of govt. we want to run Scotland!
    Once independent, who needs SNP? We need to decide if we are a labour, liberal, conservative democrat republican,socialist or green Scotland.
    We will already be independent and automatically having our own best interests at no role for SNP and Salmond any more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    Where is Mr Salmond thinking of taking us? How much will all this cost to the public of Scotland? He will not win the argument , his party and followers will turn very nasty and racist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    I am Welsh, I say to the Scottish, do it. Maybe it will give a go ahead for a referendum in Wales and Northern Ireland in the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    If Independance is really best for Scotland, and Salmond has the facts to back this up
    a - why doesn't he share them?
    b - why do so few of his own countrymen agree?
    c - why does he need to wait so long, time it for just after a national tub-thumping event, and what is likely to be the westminster government at it's least popupar?
    He's stacking the deck and yet still likely to lose!

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    672. brightonmummy
    gutted that as a born and bred Scot who lives down South, I will have no say in the future of my country, it would be a definite yes from me
    May I suggest you go back to Scotland then if you feel that strongly about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    If Scotland did become Independent then they would find that all the Civil Service jobs and other agency jobs as well as the Police/Fire brigade/Ambulance/Army/Navy/Air force jobs would slowly but surely disappear as would a lot of other businesses. They would also discover that the cost of their own separate civil service/justice/customs etc would cost a fortune as well as Alex Salmon.


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