Timeline: Scottish independence referendum

Saltire Scotland's people will be choosing their destiny in an independence referendum in autumn 2014

Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond sign a historic agreement laying the ground rules for holding a Scottish independence referendum in the autumn of 2014.

But how did the pair get to this stage? Here is a timeline of events.

May, 2007

Alex Salmond Alex Salmond became first minister after his party won minority control of Holyrood

The seeds of the referendum are sown at the 2007 Holyrood election when the Scottish National Party breaks Labour's eight-year dominance of the Scottish Parliament.

The party wins 47 seats, one more than its Scottish Labour Party rival.

Despite initial talks with other parties, the SNP forms a minority government with Alex Salmond taking on the post of first minister.

August, 2007

"No change was no longer an option" - these are the words of Alex Salmond when he launches his government's National Conversation, a white paper setting out the "full range" of options for Scotland's constitutional future.

The "conversation" runs until November 2009 and involves ministers being quizzed by the public.

There is also a public consultation on a draft Referendum Bill which outlines proposals for a vote on extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

March, 2008

Scotland's pro-Union parties announce details of a body to re-examine devolution, nearly a decade after it came about.

The commission is chaired by academic Sir Kenneth Calman - who insists at the time of its launch it will be independent and will not be dictated to by outside forces.

The constitutional commission, which is funded by the Scottish Parliament and UK government, is voted for by MSPs.

June, 2009

breathalyser Calman recommended that Scotland should control drink-drive laws

The findings of the Calman Commission are reported in the summer of 2009.

Sir Kenneth concludes that Holyrood should take charge of half the income tax raised in Scotland. He also suggests that Holyrood should take control of:

  • national speed limits
  • drink-driving laws
  • and airgun legislation.

In addition, Sir Kenneth suggests that powers on winding up companies should be returned to Westminster.

February, 2010

The Scottish government publishes a draft bill into its proposed referendum on independence.

It says voters will have the option of voting for either new powers for the Scottish Parliament or full independence from the UK.

First Minister Alex Salmond describes the Referendum Bill as an opportunity for Scots to have a say on their nation's future. Opposition parties say they will vote down the proposals.

The bill includes proposed ballot papers for a two question referendum.

  1. The first question asks whether the Scottish Parliament should have more devolved responsibility.
  2. The second question asks whether the Scottish Parliament should also have its powers extended to enable independence to be achieved.

But with a minority SNP government and no backing from unionist parties, Scots in 2010 do not have their say on their nation's future.

May, 2011

Holyrood election - May 2011

  • SNP - 69 seats
  • Scottish Labour - 37 seats
  • Scottish Tories - 15 seats
  • Scottish Lib Dems - Five
  • Scottish Greens - Two
  • Independent - One

The Scottish National Party storms to victory at the Scottish Parliament election in May 2011. SNP leader Mr Salmond says the majority win is "a victory for a society and a nation".

The party bags 69 seats, Labour win 37, the Tories 15, the Lib Dems five and others three.

During an address in Edinburgh after the win, Mr Salmond says: "I'll govern for all of the ambitions for Scotland and all the people who imagine that we can live in a better land.

"This party, the Scottish party, the national party, carries your hope. We shall carry it carefully and make the nation proud."

At that time, the first minister is vague about timings, saying the referendum will be held in "the second half" of his new governmental term.

October, 2011

Angus Robertson Angus Robertson told the conference "we will work as hard as possible"

At its autumn conference, the SNP officially launches its drive for independence - announcing details of an "unprecedented" campaign to win the forthcoming referendum.

Campaign chief Angus Robertson tells the party faithful that the campaign will appeal to people from all political backgrounds to secure a "yes" vote.

The conference also learns that referendum coffers will be boosted to the tune of £1m thanks to a bequest from Scotland's former national poet, makar Edwin Morgan.

The Scottish government continues to hold firm to its manifesto promise of a referendum "near the end of the five-year parliament".

But it is coming under increasing pressure from opposition politicians to "hold the vote now".

November, 2011

A former leader of the Liberal Democrats is appointed to chair his party's Home Rule Commission.

Sir Menzies Campbell says at the time: "The Scottish Liberal Democrats have an important role to play in the debate about the future of Scotland.

"Home Rule has the same significance today as it had historically and, as opinion poll after opinion poll shows, best represents the views of the majority of people in Scotland.

"Continuing partnership within the UK, and consistent with that relationship, increased responsibility for our own domestic affairs is the clearest way forward.

"Home Rule meets aspirations and brings certainty where the status quo is inadequate and independence brings uncertainty."

One aim of the commission was to examine the case for "the next step after Calman".

8 January, 2012

David Cameron: "I strongly support the United Kingdom"

Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, says clarity is needed over the independence referendum.

He tells the broadcaster that "in the coming days" the UK government will set out the legal position concerning a vote on Scotland's constitutional position.

The prime minister says: "We owe the Scottish people something that is fair, legal and decisive so in the coming days we will be setting out clearly what the legal situation is."

He goes on to argue that the referendum should be "sooner rather than later".

10 January, 2012 (Part One)

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore makes a statement in the House of Commons saying the Scottish government does not have legal power for a referendum on independence.

Scotland's constitutional future

The UK government was the first to announce a consultation into the possibility of a Scottish independence referendum.

He formally offers to resolve that issue via transferring powers to Holyrood under Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 (the Act which founded the Scottish Parliament in the first place).

Mr Moore says uncertainty is bad for business and bad for jobs. He adds that companies make decisions many years in advance and the uncertainty over the referendum is making that difficult.

In response, the SNP says Westminster is meddling too much and attaching "strings" to its offer of help, over issues like what should be on the ballot paper.

10 January, 2012 (Part Two)

Start Quote

To every thing its season - and tonight the First Minister has named the season for his planned independence referendum”

End Quote

As Mr Moore addresses the Commons, the Scottish Cabinet is meeting at Bute House in Edinburgh.

The consultation paper on the referendum is signed off and after that signing Mr Salmond announces he intends to hold the referendum in the autumn of 2014.

BBC Scotland's political editor Brian Taylor says Mr Salmond told him: "The date for the referendum has to be the autumn of 2014.

"That's because this is the biggest decision that Scotland has made for 300 years.

"If you are going to do things properly and have the debate in the way it must be had then that is the date that we are going to move towards."

25 January, 2012

Start Quote

Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”

End Quote The question Alex Salmond wants for the referendum 25 January, 2012

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond sets out the question he intends to ask voters in a referendum on Scottish independence.

The SNP leader says the country's electorate will be asked: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?" in a ballot which he wants to hold in 2014.

But the "Your Scotland, Your Referendum" consultation launched by Mr Salmond also asks if voters favour a second question on more Holyrood powers.

He says the referendum could be regulated by the Electoral Commission.

In a statement to MSPs, Mr Salmond describes the question as "short, straightforward and clear", saying the people of Scotland will be asked to make the most important decision facing the country in 300 years.

13 February, 2012

First Minister Alex Salmond says he and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore make "modest progress" at independence referendum talks.

The pair meet in Edinburgh to try to iron out the differences between the Scottish and Westminster governments over how the vote should be run.

Mr Moore says there is still disagreement over the issue of timing.

The first minister says no agreement on "substantive issues" is reached and that discussions will continue.

Mr Salmond meets Prime Minister David Cameron later in the week.

Alex Salmond and David Cameron Alex Salmond and David Cameron met in February to discuss the referendum deal
Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Moore Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Moore have had several meetings to discuss the referendum deal

28 February, 2012

The campaign for Devo Plus is backed by think tank Reform Scotland.

"Devo plus" would put Holyrood in full control of income tax, corporation tax and most welfare spending.

Unlike the "devo-max" alternative, it would leave pensions, VAT and national insurance in Westminster hands.

Devo Plus has the personal support of three MSPs from Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems - Tavish Scott, Alex Fergusson and Duncan McNeil.

11 May 2012

The formal end of the Scottish government's referendum consultation comes and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore proposes new talks to resolve the issues ahead.

The consultation attracts more than 21,000 responses, according to ministers.

The occasion is used to confirm that the UK Electoral Commission will test the SNP government's proposed ballot paper.

The commission's work is expected to be carried out during the autumn and winter.

The consultations....

UK government Scottish government

Announced on 10 January, 2012

Announced on 25 January, 2012

Closed on 9 March, 2012

Closed on 11 May, 2012

Attracted 3,000 responses

Attracted 26,000 responses

17 May, 2012

The UK government publishes responses to its independence referendum consultation.

It closed in March and received nearly 3,000 replies from business leaders, academics, politicians, organisations and individuals.

Ministers say the responses showed strong levels of support for a single, clear question on independence.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore calls for talks with First Minister Alex Salmond to resume.

25 May, 2012

The Yes Scotland campaign for independence is launched with the aim of encouraging one million Scots to sign a declaration of support by the time of the referendum in the autumn of 2014.

Yes campaigner backers Politicians and celebrities publicly joined the Yes campaign

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said independence would happen if that milestone was achieved.

High-profile politicians and celebrities back the campaign.

However, pro-union supporters believe independence remains largely unpopular among the Scottish electorate and will not happen.

25 June, 2012

Better Together campaigners The Better Together campaign was launched with the help of "ordinary Scots"

The Better Together campaign to defend the Union is launched with former chancellor Alistair Darling fronting an event in Edinburgh.

The Labour politician compares independence to buying "a one-way ticket to send our children to a deeply uncertain destination".

Mr Darling argues Scotland could have the "best of both worlds", with a strong parliament at Holyrood and a secure place in the United Kingdom.

10 July 2012

A panel of experts set up by Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems comes up with a question to be asked in the referendum on Scottish independence.

The main pro-union parties accuse the SNP of selecting a biased form of words with its preferred question.

The panel suggests the words "Scotland should become an independent state", with voters being asked to "agree" or "disagree".

The Electoral Commission, which will assess the proposed referendum question, makes it clear it will only consider a form of words composed by the relevant government.

9 October, 2012

Labour's commission examining further powers for the Scottish Parliament meets - seven months after it was announced.

After announcing the commission - which will put the case for "preserving the Union" - Scottish leader Johann Lamont says it will also consider what powers should be devolved to local government in Scotland.

Holyrood chamber Labour's commission will examine whether more powers should be handed to the Scottish Parliament

9 October, 2012

Following a series of meetings between Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, a statement suggests substantial progress is made, with a full agreement to come "in the next few days".

10 October, 2012

Prime Minister David Cameron tells the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham he will go to Edinburgh on Monday to conclude the referendum deal with Alex Salmond.

However, the first minister insists no deal is finalised and there are still issues to resolve.

15 October, 2012

Alex Salmond and David Cameron Alex Salmond and David Cameron sign the agreement

Ministers from the UK and Scottish governments reach a deal over the independence referendum.

The final issues are settled between the two governments and the historic Edinburgh Agreement is signed by Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond.

The agreement paves 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 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.

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