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 1097.

    Presumably a "yes" will mean a further renegotiation of the WCML franchise?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1096.

    @ Wackford . You're the dreamer if you think after Independence a Westminster regime would try in the 21st century to control any part of a foreign country

  • rate this

    Comment number 1095.

    @138.The Earl of Suffolk
    "I'm very interested to know what would happen with; banks, defence, EU, NATO membership, currency, economy, north sea oil, taxes, public sector, pensions, NHS etc etc etc"

    they have to be separated. A very costly and highly argumentative subject playing into the hands of Lawyers, Consultants & Contractors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1094.

    Given the amount of mistaken comments on subsidies, perhaps we should seek to have people with IQs of above 16 only as well as being aged over 16 as part of the electorate.

  • Comment number 1093.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1092.

    What about Wales? How about Wales grows up and stops expecting England to wipe your backsides all the time? You want something done then do it yourselves. You want Wales to be better place then do it yourselves otherwise you will be waiting forever for London to do something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1091.

    I look forward to hearing Tory Euroloonies explaining why it makes sense for Scotland to remain in the UK but not for the UK to remain in the EU. Supra-national organisations - good or bad - can't have it both ways.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1090.

    The SNP wants independence from the subsume itself within the EU. What's that all about, except perhaps the politics of spite and bitterness?
    This extreme nationalism comes from a left-wing party. National Socialists, as it were. That hasn't been the most successful political creed historically, has it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1089.

    It was Unionist policies that caused this reccession. Its time Scotland left this madness and followed its own path of sanity.

    It will be difficult but they are lining up to invest in us. Scots are universally loved and this cannnot be said about England with its attitude.

    Thatcherism and Blairism murdered the Union.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1088.

    To all those thinking of voting yes. Good luck. Seriously. The SNP are basic communists who will break your country. Every economic promise made will have to be broken. And you can't undo what's been done. Greece will look like a picnic when the cold, hard reality of what Salmond wants kicks in. I love Scotland to bits but it will die and all the romance in the world won't help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1087.

    When do we, the English, get a say in this?

    My experience tends to coincide with the polling evidence. The English are much keener on Scottish independence than the Scots are.

    My nightmare is that the Scots vote no, and we are stuck with them.

    That can't be allowed to happen. The English have to be able to vote, and if we vote yes to independence, that has to override any Scottish no.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1086.

    I am English and I hope the Scots do get their independence. Jobs would only go in the unproductive sectors. Taxes would only increase if the Scots voted for high public services. UK would lose security council seat (and hopefully inclination to meddle in foreign wars). Good luck Scotland - I hope the English get to vote for independence (from NI, Wales and EU) one day as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1085.

    Probably one of THE main factors in the "YES vote" , is the arrogant attitude of the ignorant "Little Englanders" , who try to spout fiction and have it accepted as fact.

    To all opposed to a "yes vote" in Scotland ,your biggest enemy is the "Little Englander" , probably your best friend is Alex Salmond , who would prevent ME from voting YES and no doubt many other Scots who dislike him personally

  • rate this

    Comment number 1084.

    I wonder, do the English get a chance to decide if they want Scotland as part of the UK too? Just asking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1083.

    1016 Gman115

    I think that the way ahead is for Scots to vote first. If they vote for independence by a majority then the British government should resign and a general election should be held. The manifesto for each mainstream party should then include an explanation of the proposed secession arrangements and just how "hard-ball" the residual UK would be in defending its citizen's interests

  • rate this

    Comment number 1082.

    @138 Earl of Suffolk. All your questions have already been answered.
    Banks - Scotland pay's 8.2% share of debt
    Defence - Scotland would have its own defence force with more spending than Westminster currently allocate to Scotland
    EU & NATO - Keep membership but not Nukes
    Currency - Pound Sterling
    North Sea Oil - 90% owned by Scotland
    NHS - Currently controlled by Scotland -no change except budget

  • rate this

    Comment number 1081.


    ..........................tokenist twaddle ....................


    They leave the EU & change from the fraudulent monetary system that currently enslaves them !

    For they are not currently governed by England or even London, no, like the rest of the debt enslaved peasants of the uk & EU they are governed by the banksters in "the city" & Brussels !

    These are the FACTS of the situation

  • rate this

    Comment number 1080.

    I am 55% Scottish (my Mother was a Scot) but currently live in England.
    Will I be able to vote in the Referendum?
    Michael Macgregor

  • rate this

    Comment number 1079.

    We are all human. We all live on the same island. Nothing else matters.

    A Briton.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1078.

    A silly question maybe, but does a YES vote for independence guarantee that Scotland will separate or does it simply add public opinion to the debate? Surely the devil is in the detail. How mush of the national debt will be taken by Scotland? Who gets oil revenue etc? Could there be a "YES vote and no indpedence?


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