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 1497.

    If it happens and it's a very big IF then it looks likely to be a dogs dinner of a muddle that hasn't been thought through by the SNP. Mind you it seems these days that there are not many Parties that think through may less important changes in our Country with terrible consequences. Personally, I think that everyone in the UK as we know it and would leave us with simply and English Parliament.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1496.

    @1452 - there is no history anywhere of a referendum on independence being held in the 'mother' nation to determine whether or not the 'cedeing' nation should be allowed to vote on independence.

    @1443 - the silent majority now have no voice as devo max not being offered and every recent poll shows that was the highest polling option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1495.

    @914.Fred Bloggs (me).

    Would the people marking me down please explain why. The point I make is a fact.

    The Tories are fighting for the union even though it is clearly not in the party interest, if Salmond succeeds then the Labour party becomes a footnote to history in England.

    Tell me one thing Labour did which is in the countries interest but not in their own interest...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1494.

    I was going to take part in this debate but the arguments by Scots who say they will vote No, lack any knowledge as do those of many English contributors. How can people have such strong opinions when they (obviously) have not followed, read or bothered to find out any factual information is ASTOUNDING. This is important. LEARN AND QUESTION. PS The vote isn't intended as a slight English people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1493.

    This will end up being all about nuclear weapons. If an independent Scotland doesn't think it needs their 'protection', like pretty much every other European country, it rather blows a hole in the argument for the rest of the UK keeping them. And they will have to be taken away from Scottish bases. That's the main reason that Westminster is so against Scottish independence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1492.

    3 Minutes ago
    What has Scotland given us?
    Just a couple
    James Watt (Invented Steam Engine)
    Sir Alexander Fleming (Penecillin)
    Alexander Graham Bell (Invented Telephone, although in US at that time)
    John Logie Baird (Invented TV)
    Robert Watson-Watt (Invented Radar)
    Texas(The Group)
    Billy Connely

    I won't mention Gordon Brown... ooops I did

    From an Englishman

  • rate this

    Comment number 1491.

    Part of the deal should have included a commitment that if the Scots decide to stay part of the UK in 2014 that the SNP would dissolve themselves as a party, afterall their reason for existence is Scottish Independence & if the Scots decide they don't want it then there is no requirement for them as a Party. Would also ensure that Nationalists are never able to hold the Country to ransom again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1490.

    Im English and good luck to the Scots, can we have a referendum on English independence?
    Trouble is it will cost billions to create a Scottish home office, MoD, Foreign office etc even without the massive re branding cost. What about defence will the UK just give away some aircraft, frigates etc for free, I think not! What about currency? Oh well at least you lucky beggars will be out of the EU!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1489.

    Was it a joint decision to wear blue?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1488.

    Talking of mandates....

    Just supposing for arguments sake, the referendum gets a YES vote. 50.1% to 49.9%, on a turnout of 60%.

    So far less than half the Scottish people agree. Would the SNP really have a popular mandate to cede from the UK? Could Mr Salmond make such a fundamental change on a minority vote....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1487.

    The Union once noble is morally corrupt and will collapse from within. Might has become right...This is what happened to Rome.

    England is going back in time, no self respecting Scot wants to be part of a nation with such low morals or ethics as England has become.

    The english rightwing press full of hate/spite towards ANYONE THAT IS NOT RICH or HAS MONEY is proof of what I am saying

  • rate this

    Comment number 1486.

    Bored of hearing the English comments to the effect "let's get rid of the Scots and stop subsidising them". Where does that logic end? We dump NI & Wales too? The North of England goes next? Then everyone but the South East of England is forced out? Then London rejects the rest and goes it alone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1485.

    We don't have different voting ages for different types of election - you're either old enough to vote or you're not. If giving 16 & 17 year olds the vote would need legislation in a general election then it should need it for the referendum. Shocking cynicism on the part of Alex Salmond to demand it, and shocking compliance for Cameron to agree to it without due process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1484.

    Two things.
    The question of whether the rest of the (dis-) UK wants Scotland in the Union should be put to the vote.
    And - the remainder of the country (and a good proportion of the world - those whose flags incorporate our own) will need to redesign the flag. My own preference would be the Skull & Crossbones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1483.

    Name Number 6

    Andy doesn't live in Scotland, so he won't have a vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1482.

    Many levelheaded posts from Scottish posters, many vitriolic ones from English posters? Why are some of the English so angry? Are they feeling scorned?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1481.

    The big question is what if the Scots say no to independence, will the SNP drop it or will they take a leaf out of the EU book and keep asking for referendums until they get a yes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1480.

    iv got it weel let the 'Audience" follow scotland around for a week and then the 50 of them can decide

  • rate this

    Comment number 1479.

    Am I alone in thinking that the English should have a referendum to say whether or not we want the Scots to remain part of the Union? I can tell you now what the answer to that question would be, regardless of what the SNP might wish from its own constituency.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1478.

    1444. NeverTrustLabour
    Please don’t say we when you are talking about your own opinion, be honest. The vast bulk of us don’t hate each other, maybe you should get out more, explore the world and its people a bit.


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