Scotland moved a step closer Monday to a vote on independence after Scottish and British leaders signed a deal laying the groundwork for a popular referendum that could radically alter the shape of the United Kingdom.
Officials from London and Edinburgh have been meeting for weeks to hammer out the details. Sticking points included the date and the wording of the question.
On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron met with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond in Edinburgh to approve the deal. No date was set, but the vote is likely to be held in October 2014, as Salmond’s nationalists had wished.
The “Edinburgh Agreement” means that the Scottish Government can now propose legislation on the precise wording of the question, the exact date, extending the vote to 16-year-olds, finance rules and conduct.
If Scotland does break away it will end more than 300 years of political union with England.
An ebullient Salmond said he is confident the independence movement can triumph. “Do I believe we can win this? Yes I do,” he told reporters. “It is a vision of a prosperous and compassionate Scotland and that will carry the day.”
He said the advantages of separation from Britain would become clear, and that his government envisioned “a Scotland with a new place in the world — as an independent nation.”