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 837.

    Any Scot who doesn't live in Scotland should not be entitled to vote on independence.

    Any Scot who does live in Scotland and votes for independence should be forced to stay in the resulting quagmire that they will have helped create.

    As for me, if Scotland becomes independent, I'm moving to England!

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.

    I sincerely hope that with independence comes their own:
    broadcasting company, nhs, benefits system, highways agency, application for EU membership, defence sector, currency and exchange rate, taxes, energy sector, public transport, immigration, benefits, education... etc ...
    If it's independence Salmond wants, it's independence he should get. With all the 'perks' of running his own country ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    After all it's Scotland's oil. Isn't it? Tell me, does it come out of the North sea with a tint of blue and white shade to it. ?

  • Comment number 834.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    Well in the unlikly event that there is a yes vote and that Scotland remains in th EU there will be a massive influx of students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland because under EU rules Scotland will not be able to discriminate against other EU nationals as they can with other UK nationals, so look forward to the end of no tuition fees if there is a yes vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    If only we could love a little more and hate a little less. Unity, peace, prosperity ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    @785, I have to stay down here for many reasons, none of which I wish to air in public.
    I have no chip on my shoulder, just would like to vote on an issue of fundamental importance to me and my country, what you call yourself and how you vote is up to you and is your business, I could of course lambast you for not supporting what I do but that would be wrong and judgmental

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    If you want to vote YES, then you should be north of the border. There's no sense in wanting independence but living and working anywhere else than Scotland.
    If you feel that strongly about Scotland and its independence then bye bye, thanks for all your help, off you pop back 'home'

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.

    The reason the English don't get a vote is that it would be a certain outcome, and not the one that 'call me, Dave would like....

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    I suspect that an indepedent Scotland shall fade, economically and politically, into the mists of history, like Brigadoon.

    But a multi-ethnic, open-society England alongside an ethnically homogenous, territorially-minded Scotland? Sounds unstable, as in ex-Yugoslavia. Petty nationalisms may have unintended consequences, eg provoking English assertiveness.

    I'll drink to...Brigadoon!

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    I am proud to be English and British and believe that Eng,Scot,Wales, NI are better off together. I hope that Scots vote with their heads and not their hearts.It will result in a Scottish Eu passport,probably the Euro & more laws being determined by Brussels,so less independence. It will not solve the economic problems and may prove to be an expensive mistake in the current economic climate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    My nation has already had a referendum, and I am now sovereign and prime minister and chief of the armed forces, keeper of the faith and commissioner of law and order. I won unanimously as all the citizens (1) voted in my favour. I now officially govern a territory or kingdom of two square meters.

    646. D of Sheffield - good point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    I find it interesting that any time an expert asks questions or points at problems in the independence bid - say a high level MOD person on whether or not they'd buy ships build in the clyde, or a EU consitutional law expert on an independent Scotlands EU status the SNP dissmisses them as "Not knowing what they're talking about", yet the legal advice the SNP gets would be "illegal to disclose".

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    cont #765Hopefully no full membership in Europe , more along lines of EFTA , no more subsidy junky myths ,But also where in entire UK regards Euorpean Parly a two voice say rather than one , its time for the British isles to fight for what is best for all of us rather than Westminster ideals , and mainly a better relationship between Westminster and Holyrood for the benefit of the entire island

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.

    its about time.
    now scotland do your duty and vote yes.
    scots keep all things north of the border the english keep all things south.
    scots think they will be better off the english know they will be better off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    Its just crazy, why are 16 and 17 year olds being allowed to vote if they are not deemed sensible enough to pick an MP?! Could it be because Salmond thinks more of them are likely to vote on romantic notions rather than look at the facts? And that, as it would be their first chance to vote, they are more liekly to? Me? cynical? Never..

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    794. martinfartin

    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.
    The referendum is a vote on independent not a vote for Alex Salmond or the SNP

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    #556 Bill you are not quite right. In 1603 the Scottish king took over the English crown it was they who had no choice. The Orkney and Shetland Isles were Scandinavian before being handed to the Scottish crown as an unpaid dowry and the inhabitants had no choice. They have been part of the UK for longer than they were under independent Scottish rule. They should get their own referendum too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    I agree that it should be Scottish residence who should vote. If you are English living and contributing to Scotland then you should have a say in our future. For Scots living in England or elsewhere, you have left Scotland for whatever reason and you no longer contribute to Scotland so you shouldn't have a say in our future. Want a say then come home.

  • Comment number 818.

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


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