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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Scotland Decides

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  • rate this

    Comment number 757.

    A 'no' vote would (will?) be a disaster for the SNP, which would immediately lose its whole raison d'etre. A 'yes' vote would be a triumph for Salmond and no tragedy for Cameron, as it would ensure a perpetual Tory Government in England and the rump of the UK. Labour has the most to lose from a 'yes' vote - they would be out of power forever. High stakes - and fascinating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.


    Scotland has 8.6% of UK population, but contributes 9.6% of taxes and receives 9.3% of spending.


    I am not a nationalist, but the continual completely uninformed and borderline racist comments about England paying for Scotland really make the SNP's lives too easy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    You all know, don't you, that Salmond thinks that he's just going to give a note of what he thinks should happen and a list of what he thinks should 'belong' to Scotland, to the folks at Westminster, and they're just going to say 'OK', and that will be that? Seriously, he's that deluded!

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.

    If Scots do vote "Yes", will they pay for the divorce? Why should the remainder of the UK pay for the upheaval, and given the state of public finances, why should we pay for Salmond's whim?

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    The following sums up Salmond (the driver) relationship to Scotland (the train) "Who is in charge of the clattering train, the axles squeak & the couplings strain, the pace is hot & the points are near & sleep has deadend the driver's ear & the signals flash through the night in vain, for death is in charge of the clattering train."

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    If wereally are to have self-determination, will The Dear Leader tell us what will happen if he gets an overall majori but large areas vote no? Will, say, Shetland, orkney and the Borders g to stay in UK if that is what we want (and the polls show)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    Maybe if I lived in Scotland I would be more excited.

    But I don't live in Scotland.

    And I'm not excited.

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    712. SocialReject

    Hadrian's wall is wholly within England.
    Unless of course the Scots want also to revert to 122AD boundaries. I did not read that this was going to be a referendum question.

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    This is up to the Scottish peole but if they vote yes,I only hope that ALL tax and other benefits paid to them from the British tax payer ceases and that they are treated just as any other foreign nation and not allowed to come to England asking for hand outs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    This vote should be accross the entire GB, England, Wales and Scotand.
    Hopefully once Scotland is independant the MILLIONS of scottish immigrants in England/Wales can return to their beloved Scotland that they leave ASAP because of lack of jobs and poor climate! It was Blair/Brown's dream to create Holyrood, so hopefully all those Jock politicians contaminating Westminster will go back North too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    I would laugh my head off if 2 days after scotland voted Yes to independance, they found 100,000,000,000,000 barrels of oil just inside english waters

  • rate this

    Comment number 746.

    I agree with David below. I also think as its a "divorce" that the English should vote on whether we want Scotland out of the Union - I suspect many will say Yes - they get more funding per head than many of our poorer regions such as Stoke and Humberside

  • rate this

    Comment number 745.

    Yes 16 and 17 year old's should be allowed to vote in this referendum because, afterall, they will all be over 18 come Autumn 2014. But what is being proposed is for current 14s and 15s to get the vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 744.

    To quote the Ozzie actor ..."Freedumb!!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    I'm always reminded by what a departed friend of mine who fought during D-Day once said to me during one of his stories. It always reminds me of that story whenever I hear the word 'nationalism' crop up. "What's the difference between 'patriotism' and 'nationalism'? One you love your country and the other you hate everyone elses."

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    I'm Scottish and will be voting No in the vote.
    Scotland does not have enough resources or export enough to establish and maintain all the things a country needs.
    What currency will we use? Sterling or Euro....or something else?
    Border control? we have hundreds of miles of coast.
    Oil fields? Whose are they? how long will they last.
    Will companies want to be based here?
    Definite no from me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    If Scotland vote to stay in the Union, does England then get a referendum as to whether they want Scotland to stay part of the Union? I am neither but it seems unfair that only one side gets to make the decision?

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    A vote for Independence is a vote for Freedom!"

    This is the kind of uninformed, useless idea this entire thing is based on - no one knows what is best - we havent been told yet - its just this romantic notion of independence and freedom that is a red herring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    I think it is in mutual interest to stick together as the bigger we get the more powerful we are as a country e.g Germany.

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    It would be hilarious to see A. Salmond as the leader of the newly independent Scotland trying to come up with a foreign policy.

    Given his trenchant opposition to small countries being controlled by larger neighbours, I wonder what his position will be on say...Tibet? As Scotland's salmon farmers now profits from Norway's brave stand on Ay Wei Wei, will his stern principles desert him in office?


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