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 457.

    I live in Glasgow and it really frustrates me that the SNP have been unable/unwilling to substantiate their claims.

    For example the SNP Energy policy. No new Nuclear and continued investment in renewables (specifically wind without energy storage) will result in an independent Scotland importing our energy needs from England/Continent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Wow - the ignorance and twisted logic on both sides is a real eye-opener!!

    We (and I speak as one entitled to vote up here even though I'm English) should be given the chance to decide our future. I believe the union will be maintained but after reading some of the poisonous bilge from my "countrymen" I can fully understand why the Scots would want independence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    For those asking about it, as far as I'm aware anyone living in Scotland will have a vote (as long as they're old enough). Expat Scots won't. Non-Scots living in Scotland at the time of the referendum will have a vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    So far as far as I can make out from the SNP, two major things I've to vote on are keeping the pound (controlled by Bank of England) and keeping the armed forces.

    This means independence? How?

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    10 Minutes ago
    Scotish nationalists - small minded tartan-clad twits with mis-placed national pride, low intelligence and no understanding of history or economics. You only have to look at Salmond and Sturgeon - who would vote for these slimebags?

    ..well the people of Scotland would - hence the landslide victory for SNP in 2011. Do you know what you are talking about?

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    Scotland could have devolved anytime over the last 300 years, perhaps before the Napoleonic Wars, either of the World Wars, Korea, the Falklands or the Gulf.

    Did all those brave Scots who fought for Britain die for nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    The SNP are the Scottish equivalent of 'Little England' Tories. They can't see past their noses let alone predict what a post separation Britain would be like. They seem to be more preoccupied with insulting each other than the facts, which are very thin despite the amount of time Salmond has had already. It is a terrible idea, I get on with Scots English Irish and Welsh not trouble. Vote No.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    In all that is going on in the world this is likely to be an expensive irrelevance. All the inhabitants of these islands are in this together whether some people like it or not - the climate, the economy, energy supply, food security, international terror threats, the rise of the East, the decline of the West etc, etc. At best the separatists can offer only marginal & temporary advantage to some.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    And we're off! At least, thus far, the SNP have presented tangible reasons for Scotland leaving this political union. Remember, that's all this is, a *political* separation. So many reasons for Scotland doing so. A major one being both Tory and Labour [Red Tory?] London govts are alien to Scottish political culture. Thus far the NO camp have only offered bad sound bites and fearmongering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    For any Scots in favor independence a question.

    A desire for independence often comes from feeling unable to change the system, Scotland only has one Conservative MP yet the Conservative's are the main party in government of the the UK.

    Do you want independence because of who is in charge in Westminster, or are there other reasons?

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    What a shame David Cameron cannot seem to address the more important issues going on right now which are growth and jobs, if they want this fine, but the timing is all wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    Will Sean Connery be able to vote, as he backs the SNP but lives in Portugal ???

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    Vote Yes = Rule from Brussels
    Vote No = Rule from Brussels

    The SNP want to stay in the EU, which completely baffles me since it seems to be one of the most anti-nationalist policies imaginable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    Although UK is fearful of a federal Europe, UK itself is a federation/union of several separate states/countries. There is no nationality of British as there is no country called Britain. Scots, Welsh, English and Irish (N) comprise 'citizens of the UK.' At best we are are UK'ites. If the Scots want their own nation outside the UK, that is OK. If England doesn't like it - invade and conquer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.


    You started by talking about NHS "perks", which is a devolved budget, hense my statement about your or my budget stands being a local not UK issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    I am a Scotsman with an English girlfriend and we are delighted by the news this was signed. This to me has nothing to do with hate for the English as i love my girlfriend and her family. This to me is a bout being recognised as an independent nation, one that can fend for itself and be treated as an equal, back where it belongs. We can argue over money and oil etc but Scotland deserves its chance

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    I will be definitely voting No - but can't stand the fact that we've got to endure two years of tedious debate/arguing before the vote.....Alex Salmond is totally obsessed with the Independence idea – pathetic, dangerous and backward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    BBC - 359 should be removed. Time to grow up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    I've long believed that Scottish Independence has more to do with Mel Gibson than Alex Salmond, which is all a bit sad really.

    So much for a "proud nation".

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    The key issue for me is the EU. Even though I'd prefer we all stay in it, I can just about accept that England (well London and the SE anyways) could could just about survive outside of it, for Scotland and Wales however it would be an absolute diaster to be outside of it. So why don't we all split up but keep close ties, and then an independent england can leave the EU if it wants. Everyone wins!


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