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 1157.

    672. brightonmummy

    I'm trying to be helpful by suggesting that you move immediately to Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1156.

    Salmond is a Labour man at heart and would make a great alliance with us in the next general election.
    The Labour Party could help AS in his attempt to secure independence and make a permanent alliance with the SNP & Labour.
    The Scots have red blood running through their veins & are a traditionally Labour supporting, when this is over remember the Labour Party and what we have done 4 u in the past

  • rate this

    Comment number 1155.

    1150.Cerberos - "................What is the english economy based on?"

    Got you there, our economy is built on the fundamentally sound sands of the financial sector....

    .....what could possibly go wrong.....


  • rate this

    Comment number 1154.

    1126. Paul
    Might be the case, but nobody is suggesting that English people living in Scotland will be booted out; they will get a vote same as anybody else, Scots living in England will not get a vote. It’s not about race, indeed if you pay attention to recent thinking on the origins of the British you could get much between us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1153.

    "their free drugs, eye tests and free hospital parking."

    Believe that if you will, I'm too tired responding to that myth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1152.

    Matthew Walsh

    I'm English. I'll never be "British"

    I hope the people of Scotland take the obvious vote in favour of their self-interest and we can demolish the anachronism that is the "United Kingdom".
    Firstly you need to understand the difference between Great Britain and the UK. One is geographical (ie: large Brittany) and one is political. Nobody is UK-ish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1151.

    @ 1100. newageoracle
    "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".... With all respect, how can you possibly know if we're stronger together? Life is about weighing up the pros and cons as objectively as possible, taking calculated risks & having faith to leap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1150.

    Current wit is that there are more pandas (2) in Scotland than there are conservative MPs.
    Apart from oil we have wind and wave energy and all the water we exported before this wettest summer ever ruined that potential.
    By the way..Scottish Power is owned by Ibedrola ( a Spanish company) and it is they that are enjoying the profits from our natural assets!
    What is the english economy based on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1149.

    This is about the right of people living in a particular part of the world - a part which is historically defined - to decide how they should govern themselves. Westminster governments of the past 30 years have implemented policies which have not had significant support here. These policies reflect the very narrow sectional/class interests of the financially powerful. It is time to seek change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1148.

    I'm English but I'm glad the Scots are getting their referendum. If I were Scottish I'd vote for independence. Scotland is a country with a distinct culture and traditions and character and deserves to control its affairs 100%. The very fact that Westminister tries to impose restrictions on what you can vote on is reason enough to ditch them. Good luck to you all.

  • Comment number 1147.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1146.

    @672 you could always repatriate yourself! I'm English and I hope the Scots vote for independence, it'll increase the chaos and confusion of government and I hope loosen the grip the Windsors have over people's in these sad islands. The Republic of Scotland, anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1145.

    I think it would be a shame if they split. It could get very nasty when it comes to dividing our assets (Navy, oil, etc) and debts (Royal Bank of Scotland).

    It could make Kramer vs Kramer look tame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1144.

    Librarian , surely you mean Cameron as the last Scottish Prime Minister ! His roots are in Invernesshire .

  • rate this

    Comment number 1143.

    Apart from the ton of detail to consider, there is also the broader issue of leadership - I'm not SNP but Salmond is clearly an intelligent, plausible and charismatic politician - he won't be around forever, and the thought of an independent Scotland being led by someone with fewer talents and less credibility outside Scotland 'gies me the willies', as my old nana used to say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1142.

    I wish Scotland well and hope you'll vote for secession.

    Enough of my taxes have gone to you, courtesy of the iniquitous Barnett Formula and I'm fed up of your whinging ingratitude.

    I hope you'll enjoy paying for your prescriptions and higher education, becuase it will be either that or a massive tax hike.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1141.

    An interesting read, if you're in the belief that Scotland is "costing you loads of money";
    Proven to be a lot of nonsense and that the figures are being massaged to mislead on Scotland's ACTUAL contributions to the UK.

    £9bn last year on London infrastructure projects, £20bn+ on Iraq and Afghanistan.
    EVERYONE is being ripped off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1140.

    // tomfer
    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.//

    Sorry, you seem to labour under the illusion that the English oppose getting rid of Scotland. Have you seen the polls, or spoken to any English people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1139.

    1059: All oil and gas equipment is manufactured and supplied by the British Government? Thats nonsense.The oil and gas fields were set up by the Government but since Thatcher privatised the oil and gas industry, its all paid for by the PRIVATE sector. 30 years London has received (wasted) our oil revenue, I think thats us repaid our debt. I am from NE Scotland and work with many oil companies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1138.

    two years to practice - now's the time to say goodbye. and good riddance!


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