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 1117.

    If they volt the divorce .i hope they don't get to keep the door keys/bank card just incase the grass ain't greener and they want to come back home..once the tie's are cut they should remain cut

  • rate this

    Comment number 1116.

    We should all get the vote on this. I am English and would be very happy to vote for an independent England.

    The Scots should not allowed to be the ones who dictate what happens to the UK. In every General Election that I can remember it has been the Scots that have shored up the Labour vote and decided what has happened in Westminster. They are being given a voice denied to the rest of the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1115.

    While I'm all for more of a say in local(ish) issues and better political representation, independence is not the answer for me.

    The whole devolution process has been undermined by the lack of an English legislator. We (English) have been arrogant believing Westminster was solely our legislator.

    English parliament and further devolved powers is the answer, not Scottish Independence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1114.

    #1106 whats the % of non uk the uk?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1113.

    Reply to NoToBigotry - Just remember what Murray said about the English! The Scots are far nore disparaging and racist towards the English than the other way round.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1112.

    I am all for self determination, having lived in Scotland for several years but now in England I wish them well. However, it takes a bit more than appealing to prejudice, regrettably that will feature in Alex Salmonds campaigning. Nonetheless, Independence means exactly that, the details have been brushed aside and in those heady moments think Mel Gibson! No Barnett and whether you are in the EU?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1111.

    The SNP should make an alliance with the Labour Party to secure their influence in Westminster, Scotland is a Labour stronghold, with lots of common values and issues with the Scotish.

    The Labour party can keep the SNP strong in London and work against the Govt together.

    Once the referendum has blown over we will welcome the Scottish people back to the party where they belong and are welcome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1110.

    Still, at least the Union won't collapse if Jockland happens.

    We still have Wales, who recognise it would be a joke if they thought of going independent (7% in favour this year).

    And Northern Ireland, where even Sinn Fein would balk at trying to rejoin Ireland. And the Republic certainly don't want the North back lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 1109.

    Scots independence....Love it!
    All UK government jobs sent back.
    No Barnet formula payments
    Can we English have a vote as to whether we want to keep them?
    Shetland will probably want to rejoin Norway!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1108.

    @973 Yeah there's no doubt the current £20b oil revenue is great but thats not going to last. the oil and gas are running out and the oil take in 2009 was a lot lower than 1999 so give it 10 years and it won't be close to £20b.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1107.

    Not much point giving the rest of the UK a vote on this issue anyway, let's face it, a lot couldn't be bothered to vote in the General election and look what happened, we ended up with a government nobody wants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1106.

    Scotland's citizens are only 8% of the entire UK; England 86%; and Wales and N.Ireland 6%. Even if we do get every last drop of the remaining oil, what will happen when it runs out?
    Less than 6% of all UK tax payers are in Scotland - and many of them take tax out of the system through tax credits, so we actually only contribute less than 5% through the PAYE system. Where will the money come from?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1105.

    Ed's pick #138.
    You used the magic word. "pensions". Not a single word on future unfunded pensions from the SNP, plenty of rhetoric but no facts.

    Also where is this "legal advice" on an independant Scotland being admitted to Europe that Salmond was bleating on about. Scotland would be OUT and they know it! Nationalists will argue until they're blue in the face that we can't be vetoed, we'll see.

  • Comment number 1104.

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

  • Comment number 1103.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1102.

    Let's be honest here -- if we were all independent nations would any of you actually vote to join the UK and be governed by the Westminster lot?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1101.

    "Take the North Sea Oil and Gas. All of the equipment is manuafactured and supplied by the British Government"

    See the part that says "British" that means we are part owners of it already - as with British things else where in the UK. They get traded off against each other so we do not end up with the situation of blocks from the commonsbeing shipped north or something as silly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1100.

    "....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!"
    ......If you really believe that Scotland is treated as a Westminster afterthought...then, sadly, Salmond can probably convince you of anything. I hope he won't, we are stronger together

  • rate this

    Comment number 1099.

    Why is it that when people in england, wales and N.Ireland ask for a vote in what will ultimately affect them as much as it will scotland they are voted down on HYS?
    Its not the break up of Scotland SNP are wanting, its the break up of the union. Those who want Scotland out of the Union should not be afraid to give the union a voice in the matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1098.

    I'm looking forward to seeing facts from both sides of the argument but I remain sceptical as politicians are renowned for cherry-picking the figures which support their position and ignoring the rest.

    On Radio 5 this morning the two sides of the argument couldn't even agree what the current opinion polls were showing. It wasn't even as if they were arguing over a small difference, it was +/15%!


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