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 1017.

    #916 As someone who lives in Northern Ireland all I can say is Seconded.

    What I notice is that little if any thought seems to have been put into how the various UK/ Scottish interests could be disentangled, as despite what some may think both sides are going to have valid claims on them. Plus in the current economy what happens if independance occurs and the Scottish economy tanks?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1016.

    I'm English and I don't see why I cannot vote on this issue. I live in the UK, which Scotland is a part of, and if Scotland gets independence, it will affect me as a UK resident, so why don't I get a say in the matter?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1015.

    I think us English should get a vote if we want scotland to remain in uk, let them go as im sick of hearing them moaning when they have more powers than they should already. BYE BYE Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1014.




  • rate this

    Comment number 1013.

    For Alex Salmond to guarantee the result he wants he should have got just the English to vote on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1012.

    This vote should include all members of the Union not just the Scots.
    And as for Wales I should remind them that they are not a nation but a principality. On the other hand I had better start campaigning for an independent Sussex.What madness is this when we are all deep in debt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1011.

    As a Northern Irish man i'll be watching the vote very closely, as will everybody over here. We have our nationalist/republician issues over here and i think its the same here as is in scotland, they are all very romantic ideas of nationhood etc, but when you look at the big picture its all pie in the sky, the UK is very strong together as a union of 4 nations. Please stay that way

  • rate this

    Comment number 1010.

    Is this the same David Cameron who has persistently denied us his "cast-iron guarantee" deal on an in/out referendum on the EU, but rushes to a photo-shoot with Mr Salmond to secure a referendum for Scotland?

    Typical of him also to agree to 16 year olds voting. I've never heard such nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1009.

    "Mathew Walsh I'm English. I'll never be "British" and am genuinely baffled that anyone would *want* to be "British". I hope blah blah blah..e anachronism that is the "United Kingdom"."

    I am proud to be English & British & be living in the UK and hope Scotland votes no. I am baffled by the rubbish you are talking.I you don't like the UK then emigrate

  • rate this

    Comment number 1008.

    "Will this mean that Hadrian will build the wall again, and stop Scottish MP's having a say whay goes on South of the border, as we dont have a say what goes on North of the border."

    what about the strip of England that is north of Hadrians Wall? The wall is not the Scotland / England border.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1007.

    Will there be a series of referenda until the desired outcome is attained? Will a NO vote stick?
    For how long?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1006.

    Enough with the "subsidy" crap!

    How many times do you have to be told that Scotland contributes 9.6% of UK taxes but only receives 9.3% of spending before you will actually LISTEN!!! London also receives more than its per-capita share, because it RAISES more tax.

    You are whinging about something that isn't true and insulting us Scots on the basis of a lie!

    And I'm not even a nationalist!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1005.

    London is more interested in giving countries brib... I mean aid to countries that don't even like us instead of taking care of Scotland. They much rather spend billions in wars than spend that money helping poor people in Scotland. Salmond might be smug but at least his priorities are right. There is places in Glasgow with LE lower than the Gaza Strip, what you going to do about that Cameron?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1004.

    @ 704 Fergie Wins Again

    Very clever.

    It's likely that how Glasgow votes will decide the referendum. Most people in Glasgow are pro-union exactly because of comments like yours.

    Your comments personify the problem that you see in Westminster. Do you understand that? It's simple.

    So much for Scottish unity. (Never has and never will exist.)

    So what's the point of Independence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1003.

    I am dismayed that 16 and 17year olds will be voting on this. Not because of their youth but because it is the most blantant and disgusting attempt to exploit them! All to achieve the empty narrow minded vision of a few; Salmond and Sturgeons vanity.
    Having seen a bit of the world I know what it's like and I can tell you my vote will be NO!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1002.

    948: Booing the queen and London is not about racism, probably more to do with feelings about an unelected head of state and a government that the Scots (in general) do not want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    Why do pundits and politicians continually talk of the break up of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom and its' Union flag were created by James the 6th and, at least for the time being, the House of Windsor will continue to supply a head of state. Therefore the United KINGDOM will continue to exist. What may be dismantled is the union of the parliaments, the political union. Get it right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    I was born, bred and educated in Scotland. I am domiciled in Scotland. I love my country. I am a patriot. I love Cornwall, the Highlands, Shakespeare country, Edinburgh Liverpool, Glasgow, the Lake District, Scottish dancing, quaint English pubs.
    I especially glory in the English language which we all share.

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    If the Scottish people vote for independence, then so be it.
    I would just like answers to questions that affect all of us. What happens to defence, the pound, North Sea oil, etc?
    None of these questions are being answered properly as far as I can see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    @672 Well go back then.
    If they want to go it alone then they should be allowed to. But no half measures. No English money, no English NHS, no English Social Security handouts. No preferential treatment in business, banking (where would RBS and Bank of Scotland be now if it wasn't for English bailouts). Treat them as we would any other foreign country. England can only prosper.


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