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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  • Comment number 1457.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1456.

    Salmond feels he has created history, but what kind of history is he trying to create?. Scotland will not survive this, we are not strong enough to go out on our own as an independent economy. No one who cares about Scotland and her prosperity and her future would dare vote Yes in this fool's election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1455.

    Why not allow the English to vote whether we actually want Scotland to be part of the UK?
    I think it would be a resounding NO!
    This way the self-deluded residents of Scotland can grow poorer without the hand-outs whilst we in English can all reap the benefit.
    Scotland OUT!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1454.

    @v852 "BoS and RBS were strong prudent banks, it was the Halifax and NatWest divisions run out of the poorly regulated city of London that destroyed them"

    So it had nothing to do with RBS Group's acquisition of ABN Amro for $70 billion then (run out of Edinburgh). If that's prudence then you've no chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1453.

    // FergieWinsAgain
    People of England.

    Imagine 205 years of England being ruled from Edinburgh. Imagine your equal union partner putting up ten times the number of people to parliament in Edinburgh...//

    Sorry - you really seem to have missed the bit about the English not caring. Or to have noticed that there are a lot more of us than of you, hence the dominance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1452.

    Is everyone missing the point here? If one part of an existing whole wants to break away, shouldn't all parts of the whole have a say, not just those wanting out? I am english, and the english and welsh could be affected if the scots break away. Or don't our views count?
    Obviously not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1451.

    A huge amount of ill informed "facts" being quoted on this subject, by both sides.
    Fact is you have absoluately no idea what will happen if the yes vote wins, neither does Salmond. This vote is coming about not because it is best for Scotland, but because of some nationalistic ideologies.

    And if you end up worse off because of it, is the flag flying above Holyrod going to make a difference?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1450.

    From whence would I source my porridge?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1449.

    1421. brora

    I'm pretty sure I've gathered enough evidence to make a case for not paying a tax fee to the BBC.

    They no longer provide Scotland the same level of service as the rest of the UK.

    As of today the mods have ignored reported posts which have clearly broke the house rules.

    I am disgusted by the state broadcaster, however I do think it's partly working in favour of the YES camp!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1448.

    1211. Gordon "this cuts out... a great number of expatriates who consider Scotland their home."

    The result of this vote will have a huge impact on the land and the people who live there - but not on those who don't. If it's such a great place, why would anyone want to leave anyway?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1447.

    Soon the UN will be sending aid to England. So vicious a country is it becomming.

    What sane Scots wants to part of that?

    Scotland should join the Scandinavia block and be free or market and Murdoch madness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1446.

    Why is it Scotland can get a vote on devolution but we won't be given a vote on Europe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1445.

    1396 Bazza the Bubble
    " Some of us were there to mop up the Former Yugoslavia in Bosnia and Kosovo when too many of it's people went absolutely mad.
    But that can't happen here right?? I'd not be so sure reading some comments here. :-( "
    So why was your comment removed at 1275 - cos it was inflammatory!! Hypocrite!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1444.

    Surely there is some mechanism for The English to vote Scotland out?

    We can't stand them and they loathe us. Mutually beneficial divorce please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1443.

    To have even got to this stage is very sad for me. I have absolutely no intention of voting for Independence. I love Scotland and I love being part of Britain - I cannot understand how people think we will be better off separated from the rest of the UK. It’s time for the silent majority to now speak up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1442.

    Don't forget it was the British which includes Scotland that built the Empire,so Scotland will still have to pay its share for all the overseas dependencies, and there is still a lot of them.This and other costs of the breakup have been kept from Mr average Scott.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1441.

    Turkeys voting for Christmas.
    Yes some of you hate the English and some of us hate you. At least we can all agree to hate the French.
    But it really is nothing more than family bickering. A yes vote will be catastrophic, a narrow No vote will be worse.
    The only way to save Scotland is a resounding No.
    The rest of the UK will be OK either way. If you do go then it should be complete and total.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1440.

    Can we have a referendum as to whether or not we let them stay in the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1439.

    who do i dislike the most salmon or cameron i cant decide. any chance of cameron and osbourne being scots then i could say come on bonny scotland and be rid of them all .

  • rate this

    Comment number 1438.

    Purely from a psychological perspective this is going to be one of those family squabbles followed by one leaving the nest never heard of again.

    There will be over the next two years quite a few bickering and recrimination scenarios and the two will part company.

    It happens in a lot of families why should one expect anything else?

    I hope Scotland gets its independence i may get some sleep then


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