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 1197.

    United we stand divided we fall people. Countries are just lines drawn in the sand with a stick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1196.

    1082.Noel Masson
    Well said. I couldn't have put it better.
    The answers ARE out there, they're just not what unionists want to hear, so are largely ignored.
    The SNP (and the other pro-indy campaigners) have laid out the arguments for independence clearly, and with no clear argument FOR the union we'd be mad not to vote YES.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1195.

    This issue keeps rearing its head every few years. The SNP will keep raising it until it gets the answer it wants. Let them pay for their own defence, welfare, NHS, etc. But don't let them back when it all goes toes up on them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1194.

    I believe the whole of the UK should vote on breaking up the Union.
    I think the majority of the English would vote YES.

    Now lets get an English Parliament with just English MP's and we will be happy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1193.

    The French at least fight for what is Right. England lies down and lets Bankers and faceless capitalists walk all over them.

    England will soon be a serf state and will be under the scrutiny of the UN and human rights groups.

    Scotland should move forward not backwards to vicorian madness as this disgusting PM wants.

  • Comment number 1192.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1191.

    People quoting GERS as proof Scotland can afford to split, table E.3 shows a deficit of about £10 billion (between £6-14 billion depending how oil is divided)

    Have the world renowned "Inventors of Everything" Scots found a way to spend money more than once, or are they relying on Mr Trump to foot the bill?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1190.

    I say give them the independence. Build up the wall. See how long it takes for them to realise they're isolated. Or do they want the best of both worlds - independence when it suits them, but retaining the benefits of the UK economic power and EU membership?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1189.

    Whatever happens in the vote I believe all the facts should be on the table first ie who pays for what, defence, what currency etc then the Scots can vote with the full knowledge of what a yes or no vote will mean. If a Yes vote is gained that's it all over bar the shouting and if the bill isn't to their liking its too late. There will be no going back after this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1188.

    I believe that 'call centres' are a real growth industry in Scotland. How long will they last when Scotland exits the £ and joins the Euro? I'm not saying they are 'high quality' jobs - but they are jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1187.

    I urge all English, Welsh & Northern Irish not to fall foul of the same small minded nationalism that a minority of my fellow Scots have. You will see - the vast majority of Scots love being British too, and have no animosity to our partners (a friendly rivalry!). Every English voice that says 'good ridance' plays into the hands of Salmond and his small band of separatists. Bring on 2014!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1186.

    Independence might be good for the likes of Salmond, but for the average Scot not a prayer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1185.

    What a depressing HYS.

    Start a comment 'I was born in Scotland..... ' and regardless of what you then type you get hit with negative ratings.

    This Scot has an English accent (now), English parents, an English wife, lives in England, pays his taxes in England and has always voted against devolution whenever I get a chance but I still give a load of anti-Scottish abuse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1184.

    @362.ziggyboy said "I am fed up being insulted by the uneducated"

    Well think how we English feel. We are fed up of being ruined by Labour governments kept in power by the unequal voting rights of Scottish Labour MPs. English independence from Scotland can't come soon enough - just we aren't allowed a vote on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1183.

    Where is our oil revenue fund like every other oil producing country has? There isn't even a British oil revenue fund. Oh I keep on forgetting, they have been wasting it on foreign wars. Nationalists won't bankrupt Scotland because the banksters having beaten them to it. We are a surplus nation, rich in resources and London has ran us all into the ground. Lets create a social responsible govt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1182.

    Never has there been such a drawn out waste of time as with this referendum. The SNP seem set to lose, and we will all be better off for it. I just wish that the inevitable NO vote would translate into the xenophobic SNP slinging their hook for good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1181.

    Subsidiarity is a good thing and if you don't know whether that means yes or no to independence you haven't experienced proper democracy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1180.

    I am Scottish and I intend to vote YES. As Scotland should look after itself, it can afford to, and it is better that decisions on health, education, the EU and defense are made in Scotland for the voters of Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1179.

    1163 well said about the whole british thing. im welsh and i would feel lost without our fellow islanders. britain is my home, and theres is of course nothing wrong with rivalry between us like the 6 nations or what ever else please scotland dont leave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1178.

    The Union in most ways has been of benefit to us all. English Scots we should work together for the better good of all. leave tribalism to the Sports fields.


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