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 1477.

    The timing of the Scottish referendum and any vote on the nature of UK membership of the EU could be crucial. I'm sure it's agreed that a larger country has a better negotiating hand than a small one.

    As things stand I'm not sure if it's clear whether an ind Scotland has to reapply for EU membership / automatically apply to join the Euro bloc etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1476.

    1429. brightonmummy
    Does any one know which way Andy Murray is going to vote?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1475.

    Interesting reading the likes of post 1441. Actually the Scots I know don't hate the French, quite the reverse. Likewise we don't hate the Australians etc. either. These days even hating the English is on an encouraging decline, though admittedly with plenty exceptions.
    But the independence vote is a positive vote for something. The fear, loathing and negativity is coming from the No campaign.

  • Comment number 1474.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1473.

    Sorry Dave - could you clarify - is that a political union or simply an economic one we would be better off having with Scotland?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1472.

    If there is going to be a single question on Scottish membership of the United Kingdom then what is this baloney and further expense of setting up a commission to decide on the wording of the question. If it is a single question then surely isn't that a simple "Do you wish to remain as part of the United Kingdom". Salmond should not be allowed to hedge his bets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1471.

    For those saying Scotland should be run by Scots, if that's the decision, so be it. If you vote NO, expect the Midlothian question to raise its head again.

    Scotland can have its independence, it is (now) free to choose; but expect it to take a decade to work out who owns what and who gets what.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1470.

    A few misconceptions here

    1: Scotland takes way more money than the generate, Scotland would be broke without England, come crawling back cap in hand blah blah

    For a sane analysis see these articles in the economist for a start

    I'm limited by characters here, but Scotland pays more in than almost all areas of the UK and in the short term we are OK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1469.

    Scotland covers roughly 3 fifths of the area of England, it was independent until 1707. During the 1930s and the 1980s the UK economy was run from London to the benefit of London regardless of the effect on Scotland.
    If independence can rectify that then I am all in favour. If the English regions want devolution to assert their economic independence, all good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1468.

    Love it or leave it!
    As far as I'm concerned let the freeloaders have fun in their dreary socialist paradise. Wonder what they'll do when they can no longer blame England for all their misfortunes. They'll probably want to come crawling back but will find the door closed. An added benefit to all this is that Scottish independence will save England billions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1467.


    "Yes some of you hate the English and some of us hate you. At least we can all agree to hate the French."

    And isn't it odd that there are plenty who don't want EU (in part, French) rule?

    It's not a hate thing. It's a self-determination thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1466.

    #1411: Utter garbage. Ten years from now, given appropriate low-tax, low-regulation policies from a UK government we can anticipate a successful, growing economy. An independent, socialist or pseudo-socialist Scotland will be mired in the same state that Greece, Spain, etc. now find themselves in - the inevitable consequence of policies based on massive spending of other people's money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1465.

    1447. Norman Brooke
    Soon the UN will be sending aid to England. So vicious a country is it becomming. What sane Scots wants to part of that? [sic]

    Yeah, man. No brutal murders or race hatred in Scotland, eh? And what is the "Scandinavia block"? There's no such thing.

  • Comment number 1464.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1463.

    13 Minutes ago
    There is no celebrating Christmas in Scotland. How misearable is that?

    .... Really? I mean Really? Is this a joke or do you actually believe this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1462.

    @1430 I wasn’t arguing over a few embassies my point was around the arrogant attitude from the previous comments (@1300) ‘when you’re stuck in a foreign country where will you go’ jointly funded assets should either be shared or disbanded not just handed over to the English on the basis of their perceived entitlement

  • rate this

    Comment number 1461.

    @1437 - Scotland will take a share of the UK's national debt which will include a proportion of the RBS debt. RBS is a British Bank bailed out by the British Government, if on independence you want all the debt from the RBS bailout retrospectively applied to the new state, no problem but the new state will bill the UK for a retrospective payment of revenues raised in Scotland but spent elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1460.

    Truely hope the Scots get independance. It would be the long overdue collapse of the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1459.

    I hope that Scotland gets it's independence, then we won't have to listen to any more of the moaning and complaints.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1458.

    Why is there all this Antagonism. I am English and i love the Scots, Welsh, Irish and English. It is what makes up this GREAT BRITAIN we live in. I don't even mind that they want a decision on their independent future. So long as it is independent. For too long we have heard, Scotland gets this, England gets that. Both countries doing their thing, and at last not blaming each other.


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