Gloves are off after David Cameron and Alex Salmond start the clock on Scottish independence referendum

The Scottish and UK governments signed an historic agreement on an independence referendum today

A two-year campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Scottish people before they vote on whether to leave the United Kingdom began today after the Scottish and UK governments signed an historic agreement on an independence referendum.

David Cameron, who approved the deal in Edinburgh with Alex Salmond, the SNP First Minister, immediately dangled the prospect of further devolution if the country votes No to breaking its 305-year link with England since the 1707 Act of Union.  The Prime Minister made a clear attempt to stop the SNP pushing supporters of more devolution into the Yes camp after Mr Salmond dropped his idea of  having such a  “devo max” option on the ballot paper. 

The Coalition Government insisted on a single question. In return, Mr Salmond achieved his goals of delaying  the referendum until 2014 and for 16 and 17 year-olds to be allowed to vote.

Mr Cameron said: “All those who want to see not only the status quo but further devolution from the United Kingdom to Scotland must vote to stay within the United Kingdom.  Then it'll be for all the parties to decide what proposals to put forward, but I've always taken the view we have to answer this prior question first. We have to answer the question: does Scotland want to stay in the United Kingdom? If the answer is Yes we do want to stay in the United Kingdom, then obviously further devolution is possible.”

Denying that the UK Government had made more concessions in the negotiations than the SNP administration in Edinburgh, Mr Cameron said: “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 UK, as I hope, or separating itself from the UK.”

Mr Salmond insisted the Yes campaign could turn round opinion polls putting the No camp ahead by “winning the argument” over the next two years.  “I believe we'll win it by setting out a positive vision for a better future for our country economically and also, crucially, socially,” he said.

The First Minister said today’s agreement  paved the way for the most important decision Scotland has made in several hundred years. “It is, in that sense, an historic day for Scotland and a major step forward in Scotland's home rule journey.”  He said the deal meant there would be “respect” for the outcome “whatever it is” and meant the SNP could now address the substantive arguments involved in devolution.

The pro-independence campaign faces an uphill struggle because polls in recent months showed an average 37 per cent of Scots in favour of a breakaway after “don’t knows” are excluded. John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said Mr Salmond needed to convince Scots they would enjoy “sunnier economic times” as a separate country. “Even amongst the three in 10 Scots who say they are ‘Scottish, not British’ only just over half (53 per cent) currently say that they want independence,” he  added. “Some 78 per cent of those who think the Scottish economy would be a lot better under independence are in favour of leaving the UK. However, at the moment almost as many people think Scotland’s economy would be worse under independence as believe it would be better.”

Downing Street insisted that allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the Scottish referendum did not open the door for the same group to take part in future general elections – or even in the referendum on Britain’s relationship with the European Union floated by Mr Cameron.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “The Government certainly has no plans to change the voting age. The agreement being signed today is specific to the referendum. We are confident that there are no wider implications or precedents for elections, or indeed referendums, under UK electoral law.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine