UK

Scottish independence: 10 key moments

Yes and No campaigners hold placards at separate rallies Image copyright AFP / Getty Images

Scottish voters will go to the polls on 18 September to decide whether Scotland should become an independent country.

The campaign has hogged the headlines over the last fortnight as the polls narrowed and politicians from around the country descend on Scotland and redouble their efforts to convince voters one way or the other.

It all started nearly two years ago in October 2012, when Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond signed the Edinburgh Agreement, the document which paved the way for the referendum.

Here are some of the key moments from the campaign that followed:


1) Wording of the question agreed

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Media captionScottish Electoral Commissioner John McCormick said voters were entitled to have confidence in the result of the referendum

The Scottish government had originally proposed that the referendum should ask: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"

The Electoral Commission was concerned that it could have led people to vote "Yes", and in January 2013 SNP ministers accepted the watchdog's alternative: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

As BBC Correspondent Nick Bryant has pointed out, Scots must consider themselves lucky compared to Quebecers, who have faced a 43-word question and a 106-word question in their referendums.

Scots Indy question change backed


2) 16 and 17-year-olds get the vote

Shortly afterwards, in March 2013, the Scottish government brought in the formal legislation needed to grant 16- and 17-year-olds the vote in the referendum.

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Media captionStudents at Linlithgow Academy on their impending responsibility in voting in Scotland's independence referendum

Introducing the bill, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said young people had the biggest stake in the future of the country.

At the time, Labour said further clarity was needed to ensure every 16-year-old was able to vote on polling day.

But the plan was backed unanimously as part of the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill later that year.


3) Row over EU legal advice

Image copyright Getty Images

A dispute broke out in October 2013 over whether the Scottish government had obtained legal advice on EU membership for an independent Scotland.

The SNP's opponents parties argued that a statement by Deputy Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the independence consultation process contradicted remarks made by Alex Salmond in a TV interview.

Labour MSPs accused Mr Salmond of misleading the public - a charge the first minister rejected, saying his words had been quoted selectively.

Salmond backed over 'lying' claim


4) White Paper publication

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Media captionFirst Minister Alex Salmond: "Scotland's future is in Scotland's hands."

In November 2013, the Scottish government published its blueprint for independence, entitled "Scotland's Future".

The document runs to 670 pages and has provided many of the main talking points for the last year of the debate, including which currency an independent Scotland would use, how much revenue North Sea oil will generate, and Scottish viewers' right to continue watching Doctor Who.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Salmond described the White Paper as "a mission statement and a prospectus for the kind of country we should be and which this government believes we can be".

He added: "We do not seek independence as an end in itself, but rather as a means to changing Scotland for the better."

Better Together's Alistair Darling criticised the publication as "full of meaningless assumptions".

Scots referendum blueprint unveiled


5) Currency becomes the focus

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Media captionChancellor George Osborne said the pound was not an asset to be divided up, during a speech in Edinburgh

In February 2014, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne addressed directly the Scottish government's plan that Scotland would continue to use the pound sterling.

He took the unusual step of making public advice from a senior Treasury civil servant that a currency union would be "fraught with difficulty".

In response, Scotland's Finance Secretary John Swinney described his advice as "incomplete" and "backward-looking".

Mr Salmond responded by saying "attempts to dictate from on high" the terms of the debate were damaging the democratic process.

He warned in a speech that the Treasury risked imposing "hundreds of millions of pounds" in costs on firms if plans for a post-Yes currency union were rejected.

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Media captionAlex Salmond's speech came after Chancellor George Osborne last week ruled out a currency union with an independent Scotland

UK Treasury rules out sterling zone

Salmond: Currency block will hurt UK


6) Gordon Brown speech

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Media captionGordon Brown: ''It is right to keep our British pensions''

The former Labour prime minister had probably faded from many people's minds after his defeat in the 2010 general election.

In April 2014 he gave one of his first big speeches on the subject, announcing his return to the political limelight as a figurehead for Better Together.

He spoke of the importance of "sharing risks and resources" across Britain and focused particularly on pensions, arguing that Scottish pensions would be more secure and cheaper to administer if Scotland remained in the UK.

The speech made headline news in several papers north and south of the border, but SNP's pensions spokeswoman Eilidh Whiteford condemned his claims at the time as "ludicrous".

Brown: UK 'protects' Scots' pensions


7) First TV debate

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Media captionAlex Salmond repeatedly asks Alistair Darling: "Do you agree with David Cameron?"

The terms had been much disputed, with the SNP insisting a debate ought to take place between Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond.

But in the end it was head of the Better Together campaign, Labour's Alistair Darling, who faced Mr Salmond under the studio lights - and Alistair Darling whom instant polls suggested had come out on top.

Over 1.5m viewers across the UK watched as the former chancellor asked the SNP leader several times what his "plan B" was if Scotland could not use the pound.

In return, Mr Salmond repeatedly challenged Mr Darling to specify if he agreed with David Cameron that it was possible for Scotland to be a "successful independent country".

The Yes Scotland camp did not agree that Better Together had "won", calling Mr Darling's approach "negative".

Both sides claim TV debate victory


8) Second TV debate

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Media captionAlistair Darling on currency: "I want to know what Plan B is"

The shoe was on the other foot for the second TV debate, with polls suggesting viewers had found Mr Salmond more convincing. Better Together disagreed.

More than two million viewers watched the second debate on the BBC, in which the currency row again took centre-stage.

This time the first minister revealed he had not one plan B but three, but the former chancellor warned him: "You are taking a huge risk if you think it is just all going to fall into place."

Salmond and Darling in heated debate


9) Poll lead for 'Yes' vote

Image copyright PA

On 7 September, a poll by YouGov for the Sunday Times suggested a lead for the "Yes" vote for the first time.

Prof John Curtice told the BBC that one poll on its own should not be regarded as significant, but he noted "a majority of pollsters" were putting the "Yes" vote "at least as high as it has been at any point during the campaign".

The poll seemed to unleash a new phase of the campaign, with Yes Scotland declaring the momentum behind them and leaders of the three largest parties at Westminster agreeing to cancel prime minister's question time in order to travel to Scotland.

Scottish referendum 'neck and neck'


10) 'The vow'

On 16 September, The Daily Record published a "vow" signed by David Cameron, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.

The pledge committed the three parties to plans sketched out earlier by former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown: including "extensive new powers" for the Scottish Parliament parties, a statement that the UK should "share our resources equitably" and a commitment to preserve the Treasury's block grant to Holyrood.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon responded by asking: "If there was a serious intention to deliver more powers, why hasn't that happened before now?"

"If we vote 'No', there are no guarantees at all," she added.

Pro-Union leaders in powers pledge