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 1177.

    What is Scottish? The fearsome warrior enjoys cold north wind! What is Scotland? The St. Andrew Cross fluttering from Lowland to Highland! Some people says Scottish will be poorer if they are a country, some people says Scotland will be hopeless if they are ruled by themselves. Buck Up, Wake up! Thousands of years Scottish are doing well. Let these nonsense be regretful!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1176.

    Look, if it's break up of the UK we want then we need to do it properly. Revolution, starting with with the throwing out of the self-consumed, self-serving politicians whose only real aim is to increase the wealth of themselves and their friends. Followed this with the election of say, a doctor to be secretary of Health, an economist for chancellor etc. rather than public school boys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1175.

    For years I have held the view that sport has politically and socially divided the UK. The UK would certainly make a stronger rugby team than the component 'nations'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1174.

    The English should be allowed a vote on full Scottish Independence.
    Surprised old Salmond doesn't demand it.
    He'd be sure to win if the English did get a vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1173.

    Total madness, divided we fall. A "yes" vote start the break-up of the UK. It'll end up as 4 minnow countries struggling to survive. Still Great Nations have risen and destroyed themselves throughout history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1172.

    1 Minute Ago
    "their free drugs, eye tests and free hospital parking."

    .... As someone who has just paid through the nose to park at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary I (the same as Manya 1127) am fed up with all the ill informed comments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1171.

    Once Scotland is independent the GDP "will go up by 20% when oil is added into it."

    Prof Gavin McCrone

    Scotland is NOT subsidised

    Scotland will be better off out of the union. It is a wealthy country with vast resources - not just oil, oil is just a part of it.

    There's at least 50yrs of oil left now, more to be discovered!

  • Comment number 1170.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1169.

    Jaap's !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1168.

    The Conservative party want out of Europe for the same reasons Scotland wants independence, to manage their own affairs locally without interference from afar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1167.

    @ 1146.Yelsred - 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?

    Unfortunately no - in the event of a 'yes' vote, Salmond has said she'll remain as Head of State. Another reason I'm voting 'no'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1166.

    A few more years of Mr Cameron and Scotland could very well vote Yes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1165.

    what would be the knockon impact to N.Ireland, should Scotland win a nationalist vote? How would the nationalist community in N.Ireland react to the removal of Scotland?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1164.

    Top 4 UK regions for public sector employment

    N.E England

    Oh dear, goodbye untold thousands of UK jobs in Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1163.

    Unless watching football, rugby or the Commonwealth Games, I am British rather than English, as far as I'm concerned the whole island is my home. I have history in Scotland and Welsh blood. 'That' is why I want to be British. Like Walt(136) I feel a bit helpless over the whole thing but I don't believe that it is a foregone conclusion. Let's see what happens in 2014.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1162.

    I just hope the people of Scotland are able to make a logical decision through being giving all the facts about what independence will and won't mean.

    Not a decision made through campaigns of fear, emotion and Sean Connery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1161.

    1136. JZ
    It is sad to see the letter G is fast disappearing from GB in the last few decades, this is just going to to be the final nail.

    Indeed. The Great started to fade when we came out as one of the biggest losers of world war 2.

    About all we have going for us now is a measure of independence strangely enough.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1160.

    I hope Scotland gains independence so we can stop being part of the overseas meddling the UK takes part in as an appendage of the US. We can save billions by not buying Trident as no one is threatening us with nuclear attack anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1159.

    The main issue for me is what currency would be used. An independent Scotland has two options: Use GBP - controlled by the Bank of England leaving Scotland without control over monetary policy; or enter the collapsing Euro - leaving Scotland without control over monetary policy.
    So Scotland is left to control a fledgling economy with fiscal policy whilst monetary policy is controlled abroad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1158.

    The only issue which matters is the oil and gas. Who gets the revenue from it? Everything stems from this discussion; education, defence, health, transport etc. There is a lot of noise to stop people looking at this question but it should be the central talking point.


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