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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Scotland Decides

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1037.

    Scotland... it should not have sole ownership of north sea oil, Oil found after independence should be theirs. independence should be funding by Scotland, Scotland should in no way be a financial burden on the union nor be able to hold solely onto anything owed by or within the act of union... any such thing should be split between Scotland and the other member of the Union

  • rate this

    Comment number 1036.

    Benefits of the Union.

    1. Murdoch dicates social policy
    2. The City dicatates social policy and economic policy.

    Union = De-facto Dicatorship by the fianance/media barons.

    Liberation and freedom for Scotland to go its own way and do things its way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1035.

    As someone who wants to remain British as well as being a Scot, will I be allowed to retain my British passport if independence is voted for in the referendum?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1034.

    Independence is not about realising some romantic ideal based on Wallace sentimentality. It's also not about 'hating the English'. It's about what's best for our future economically, socially & politically. Scotland deserves to have it's interests at the forefront of the political agenda, & not be an afterthought of Westminster! If Salmond can convince me risks are carefully considered, I say YES!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1033.

    From England here also and live in Scotland. All my colleagues, mainly from Scotland but also a fair scattering of other nationalities, will be voting NO.
    We need to work together and fragmenting the UK like this is senseless in the extreme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1032.

    It will be interesting to see what happens when Catalonia holds its "independence" referendum later this year. It could be a blueprint for a peaceful transition to smug enclave, or it could provide an instructive foretaste of a broke province angrily demanding more than its share from an equally broke national government. The similarities won't be lost on the politicians or the bond markets!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1031.

    Why shouldn't the English have a say in this? It affects us as much as the Scots. Once again the UK Government is ignoring England and pandering to the the Scots. I wish we had a leader who is as committed to us as Alex Salmond is to the Scots!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1030.

    Anyone who is pro or anti independence is a fool.
    I will only decide which side of the fence I sit on once there has been a paper jointly produced by the Scottish & UK Governments that clearly details EXACTLY how becoming independent will affect the country & it's people.
    Following the production of such a document, it should be obvious whether independence is worthwhile or unfeasible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1029.

    let Scotland go if thats what they wish, but i hope that any funding they get now from England and Wales will stop if there is a YES vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1028.

    It will be a sad day when the UK is broken up. So much history and tradition, we are stronger together without a doubt. If the nationalists get their way then lets hope the deal cuts off the one way flow of taxpayers money from the South.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1027.

    @973 Think outside of the box. What about economic subsidies? Welfare? Health? Jobs created by the MOD and government? grants etc etc i think england will by far better off even without the 20bn oil. That oil is past peak aswell. Whatever scotland decides to do, i just hope that the poetry bubble surrounding the scottish people bursts and they see the whole picture before voting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1026.

    Westminster is an absolute disgrace.

    It is no longer the basis of representative Government.

    We are ruled by self serving career politicians who renage on pledges and pander to their lobbyist masters.

    A Scottish break away might provide a focus for addressing the destruction of our democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1025.

    Keep the pound but quite in the UK (also we’ll take care of the difficult things like NATO). If Scotland, like Norway, only want to join the European Free Trade Association and the European Economic Area and CFP, that takes years to negotiate. Salmond will not be getting everything his own way. Tax rates and cost of living will go through the roof.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1024.

    What checks and balances has the BBC put in place to ensure they represent both sides? I suspect that the BBC could do with a does of independence

  • rate this

    Comment number 1023.

    A yes vote would make me an immigrant in England and foreigner in Scotland, when my ancestors have lived for hundreds of years in Scotland and I carry a British passport but live in England. (Sadface)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1022.

    As a Englishman why can't I decide whether I want the Scottish to be part of the UK. After all. just with the UK devolution I imagine the English will bear the cost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1021.

    Scottish be free , everything else doesn't matter

  • rate this

    Comment number 1020.

    1001.Mallorquin - lets indeed get it right.

    It is actually a break up of the United Kingdom. Rather than a united kingdom, the United Kingdom of England/Wales and Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom of Scotand would be in a Personal Union with each other though HM.

    Noone would say that Australia, New Zealand and the other territories which are in a personal union with the UK are in the UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 1019.

    I hope that Mr Cameron will agree that if the Scots gain independence that Scotland will stand on its own two feet after the vote/transition, with no financial support from Westminster.

    I have no axe to grind either way, but the Scottish economy has to fund itself without years of subsidies from Westminster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1018.

    Regarding the 'maturity' of 16 and 17 year olds to vote - I believe that a significant majority of 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland will hold as well informed and properly considered a view on this issue as most Scots aged 18+ will. I think most young people, regardless of their background or education, react positively and maturely when trust and meaningful responsibility is invested in them.


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