Cameron, Salmond sign deal for referendum on Scottish independence

Thursday, October 18, 2012

United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond have signed a deal for a referendum on Scottish independence to be held in the autumn of 2014. The deal, signed in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, gives the Scottish Government clear legal power to hold a referendum. The deal lapses if a referendum is not held before the end of 2014.

The deal, signed on Monday, achieves a compromise between the proposals of Mr Cameron and Mr Salmond. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds are to be allowed to vote in the referendum. Mr Salmond favoured this. However, there is to be only one question on the ballot paper, a simple 'yes' or 'no' question on whether Scotland should be independent. Mr Salmond had proposed a second question on the ballot paper, on so-called 'devo-max'. This would have given Scotland full tax-raising powers while still remaining inside the United Kingdom if voters rejected independence.

The pro- and anti-independence campaigns have been setting out their positions. The pro-independence campaign, which is led by former BBC Scotland news chief Blair Jenkins and supported by Mr Salmond's Scottish National Party and the Scottish Green Party, seeks to convince voters of the benefits of independence. Mr Salmond said: "The agreement will see Scotland take an important step toward independence, and the means to create a fairer and more prosperous Scotland. I look forward to working positively for a yes vote in 2014." The anti-independence campaign Better Together is headed up by former U.K. chancellor Alistair Darling and is supported by the Scottish Labour Party, the Scottish Conservatives, and the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Mr Darling suggested Scotland leaving the union would mean a pointlessly "uncertain future".

Currently, Scotland is run through devolution. The Scottish Parliament can make laws on 'devolved' issues, which include health, education, and policing. However, the U.K. parliament still has power over 'reserved' issues like defence, foreign affairs, and taxation.