Scottish Referendum: David Cameron and Alex Salmond seal deal on independence
THE British Prime Minister and Scotland's First Minister today sealed a deal to grant the government in Edinburgh the power to hold a referendum on independence.
David Cameron and Alex Salmond signed the agreement during a meeting at the Scottish Government headquarters at St Andrews House.
The deal, which has been dubbed "The Edinburgh Agreement", follows months of negotiations.
Private meetings between the two governments have covered contentious issues about the question on the paper.
Proposals for a second question on further devolution, short of independence, were firmly opposed by the UK Government.
Negotiations between the governments were led by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore.
Speaking after signing the deal, Mr Cameron told broadcasters: "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 it's decisive, it's legal and it's fair, and I think that's right for the people of Scotland."
Asked what he gets back when he has given Mr Salmond control of both the date and who votes, he replied: "What we have is what I always wanted, which is one single question, not two questions, not devo max, a very simple single question that has to be put before the end of 2014 so we end the uncertainty, we put beyond doubt Scotland's position either within the United Kingdom, as I hope, or separating itself from the United Kingdom, one single simple question.
"That for me was always the key. Now we've dealt with the process, now we should get on with the real argument, and I passionately believe Scotland will be better off with the United Kingdom but also crucially the United Kingdom will be better off with Scotland.
"We're better off together, we're stronger together, we're safer together.
"Let the arguments now be put, and I hope that people will vote to keep this United Kingdom together."
The agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government states that the governments have "agreed to work together to ensure that a referendum on Scottish independence can take place".
It states: "The governments have agreed that the referendum should have a clear legal base; be legislated for by the Scottish Parliament; be conducted so as to command the confidence of parliaments, government and people; and deliver a fair test and decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect."
It notes that the governments have agreed to promote an Order in Council under Section 30 of the Scotland Act to allow a single question referendum on Scottish independence to be held before the end of 2014. The Order "will put beyond doubt that the Scottish Parliament can legislate for the referendum".
The agreement, signed by the Prime Minister, First Minster, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon goes on: "It will then be for the Scottish Government to promote legislation in the Scottish Parliament for a referendum on independence. The governments are agreed that the referendum should meet the highest standards of fairness, transparency and propriety, informed by consultation and independent expert advice.
"The referendum legislation will set out the date of the referendum; the franchise; the wording of the question; rules on campaign financing; and other rules for the conduct of the referendum."