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 1217.

    I have scrolled through the many responses to the proposed vote for independence.
    Lots of interesting comments made, some with very important questions raised.
    I hope Salmond and his cronies are able to give straight answers to direct questions!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1216.

    I am a Scot living in north of England - as a taxpaying Scot in (the still) United Kingdom why am I not getting the chance to vote on what happens to my country and affects my status, what will I be post break up? A legal immigrant subject to different rules than indigenous pop? A former Scot? Reallocated English? We Scots have not been subjugated for 300 years, wake up to Salmonds vanity project

  • rate this

    Comment number 1215.

    Salmond will lose, and should resign (but he won't).

    I think of myself as British. I live in England, but do not see myself as English. And definitely not European!

    If Scotland did go, I would not be upset to be honest. Nothing would change if they did and the rest of the Union would not even notice. Why would we?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1214.

    I am an Irishman living in England. Whatever the Scots decide, at least they are deciding with ballots not bullets. Almost a hundred years on, there are still neighbours in Ireland who don't talk to each other, over Independence. Whether it's a velvet divorce or a re-affirmation of vows, no-one is going to get hurt. The many issues will be resolved without barricades and guns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1213.

    Perhaps on the same day England could have its long overdue referendum on an English Parliament. How about it Mr Cameron

  • rate this

    Comment number 1212.

    As a Scot, it is difficult to understood how independence is supposed to benefit Scotland in practice. How would Scotland survive economically and hold its own in a Europe with political and economic power houses like Germany? The SNP has not put forward concrete evidence to support such a move or to explain why abandoning centuries of union should be of practical benefit to the Scots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1211.

    It seems absurd that this will be a popular vote made only by those resident in Scotland at the time. For a decision that affects entire lifetimes for families, this cuts out the bulk of British people who have a very real stake in the outcome of this referendum including a great number of expatriate British subjects who consider Scotland their home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1210.

    Do the politicians really know what path they are letting the Scottish people take? Just by asking the question may lead to the sort of divisions we've all witnessed in N. Ireland - do we want that repeated? I would love to hear what Alex Salmond perceives is the "problem" he's trying to solve and stop banging on that separation from the Union is the "solution".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1209.

    @1096.glaschas wrote
    "@ Wackford . You're the dreamer if you think after Independence a Westminster regime would try in the 21st century to control any part of a foreign country."
    North Sea Oil is not in a foreign country - the clue is in the name. Try reading the continental shelf act.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1208.

    Most of us Scots know, there is no way free prescriptions, free uni, council tax freezes, parking & tolls etc etc will stay free, everything will be bumped up in price as is the way of all too good to be true crazes, Alex Salmond is simply putting on a show until he gets what he wants. It is trully sad however to read the comments on scots hate english & english hate scots

  • rate this

    Comment number 1207.

    Shame this Scotland topic doesn't allow me to comment on the far-fetched claim by Santander that is could not integrate IT systems from the RBS branches it had said it would buy. And this based on a report from Accenture. With 30 years experience in banking IT I can state it would be possible and by end of 2013. But we were not allowed to comment on that story and this comment will be removed.

  • Comment number 1206.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1205.

    1139. SuperJase1985
    Indeed Thatcher sold our oil down the swanee, to the highest bidder, while Norway kept theirs in house and now sit on a $600 billion fortune. We have next to nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1204.

    How can Scotland be Independant within the EU? I am Scottish, British and a European Citizen and still cannot have a say in the Country of my Birth. I joined the Royal Air Force in 1979 and served my Country and it is being taken away from me by Academics and Politicians. I am not alone 'down south' who feel this way. I have family in Scotland who feel the same. We demand a vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1203.

    We are a proud nation..........G.B. that is. Out strength is a collective one and I really hope our Scottish friends see beyond the hype and vote to stay in our magnificent union.
    A vote is correct though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1202.

    Reading and watching all the populist anti-European statements of our politicians (the Westminster ones), I am now definitely supporting an independent pro-European Scotland. Scotts are definitely open-minded people, working hard for their future. Here in England we seem to be obsessed with our narrow-minded Little Englander's mentality and still thinking we are the centre of the world... Shame!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1201.

    I'm English; proud to call myself British, although I can see why some, from Scotland for example, aren't proud to say the same because they see themselves as historically conquered.
    I say let them leave the United Kingdom and they’ll soon be back asking to join.
    At least then they can get over this 'unjust British rule' they seem to cling to and it will be a decision they actually made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1200.

    1190.YouCantBe S
    "I say give them the independence. Build up the wall. See how long it takes for them to realise they're isolated."

    and watch the lights go out in England (or at least dim) since England imports electricity from Scotland (& Wales). Had you thought about that too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1199.

    Now Scotland have the referendum to see if they wish to be part of the UK when will the rest of us England, Northern Ireland & Wales get a referendum on leaving the EU???

    Come on Mr Cameron lets veto a referendum on the EU. You've proved today how easy it is!

    Good luck Scotland!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1198.

    Why would this referendum be inclined to the Scots?. British overseas shall have rights to determine whether we become Scottish or English or British. What would be the future Scotland? Another Isle of Man? Jersey or Guernsey or Gibraltar? Think about it before you vote.


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