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 797.

    A very lightweight low grade political deal. Where are the resolutions and facts? Would both the UK and Scotland be out of the EU, it should logically. Scots want to use England's pound. So have no need to be considered in setting policy with regards to it. Who will pay for sealing a land border? Prevent migration either way etc. Shetland, also permitted to devolve from Scotland and stay in Union?

  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    Will you need a visa to enter Scotland, if you are an Englishman?

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.

    Yes, thats all very well, but you forgot one thing: Your'e an idiot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    I have a couple of friends in Scotland, who would like independence, but they will be voting no. The reason - Salmond and the SNP - They are communists. They will ditch the pound in favor of greater EU integration for starters......

  • rate this

    Comment number 793.

    If Scotland votes to leave the UK I trust they will be taking their share of the national debt with them and that we will no longer be subsidising their university places and prescription costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    Alec Salmond declares that agreement must ensure that "the fundamental right of the people of Scotland to choose their own future is respected by ALL." Does he include himself in that? So that if the result of the referendum is no will he wind up the SNP whose raison d'etre is independence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    724 Paul MacDonald

    Let's clear something up. It was the British Empire, not the "English Empire" in which Scots were somehow colonised!

    Scotland, a failed imperialist in its own right profited hugely from the empire, having a disproportionately large hand in its expansion and administration. Between 1850 and 1950 no less than 30% of colonial governors were in fact Scots.

    Inconvenient facts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    @783 The British Government bailed out the British Bank called RBS. When Scotland becomes independent it will take a share of all national debt including a proportion of that debt from the bailout of RBS. This is already stated, also RBS may well have paid Westminster back by the time Scotland leaves the UK. Scotland will also of course receive a share of all UK assets on leaving the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    Another thing people should note is that it's the SNP who are proposing independence so it's the SNP that have to make the case and prove their proposal to the people of Scotland. It would be a mistake for UK politicians to be caught up in trying to re-make the case for union. Instead they should press the SNP on exactly how they will run an independent Scotland and cope with the consequences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    Oh how the little Englanders will regret their comments on this issue if Indepdance does go ahead - after all, who else will we get our fresh water from once GW has wreaked even more havos with the weather tha it already has?

    Instead of sharing it with us Scotland will be able to charge us for it.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    If this is going to be a vote for Scottish Independence then should English politicians be involved? Will Labour, Liberal and Tories accept money from England to support their No campaign? Last time round the English bought off the votes, will the same happen this time? The English should hold a vote on the subject. I am sure that nobody in Scotalnd will want to contribute financially.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    For all Alex Salmond's political mastery he really only has one policy that he cares about - Nationalism at all costs. The rest of his polices don't add up. And for Scots who have moved and are sore not to be able to vote Scotland down the pan - well you can always move back up and if the yes vote succeeds then join the sinking ship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    #672 Go back to Scotland then! I'm Scottish and live in England - I'm proud to be British and sick and tired of moaning Scots with chips on their shoulders. I would never vote SNP in a million years but I'm getting to the stage where I hope it is a 'Yes' and Scotland can just get on with it! I think a lot of English are too and frankly I don't blame them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    Don't worry Scotland, if ever in terrible in the future as an independent nation, just thank your lucky stars for the Summers in southern/southern eastern England. Selling water is the future!

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    So will they pay back the British government for the bail out of RBS? if yes then I agree they should go Independant. But otherwise no.

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    "705.Bazza the Bubble
    The Scots gave us worse than useless Gordon Brown and we, the English, give them a home team to support at international football tourneys."

    No Scotsman supports England in football. And we've had centuries of useless English PMs belittling our country. Gordon was a drop in the ocean.

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    I'm English and am for Scottish independence, but that means they truly are independent, no English public money goes north of the border they have to pay for the NHS hospitals, pay their part of the bank bailouts back. Indepence means just that stand on your own two feet. As the for oil issue, surely it's mostly in international waters and therefore them that finds it, gets the money from it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    I strongly suspect that the SNP will win this one, and particularly if the UK under coalition misgovernment continues to slide downhill the way it is at the moment

    However it seems less than likely that the current Westminster cronies will still be in misgovernment by 2014.

    Hence the SNP will be up agaist a fresh lot of bunglers, the ground shifting yet again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    BBC is pro union as while UK is GB is British - can keep globalising and jollifying as British - would not be so foreignising as Scottish Broadcasting Corp

    BBC is a massive vested interest in keeping the Union - floodgates open for British Council foreignising & immigration & world jollies & human rights preaching for the BBC and Guardian newspaper

    Can't wait to see Salmond kick the BBC out

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    By doing this they dishonour all the Scots that have fought and died for Britain, particularly those from WW1 and WW2.


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