The timing for the Scottish independence question has been decided. In two years, Scots are to vote on whether to remain part of the United Kingdom or form their own independent state.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and the leader of Scotland's separatist administration Alex Salmond on Monday signed an historic referendum agreement that could lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom.
The deal outlines plans for a referendum to be held in Scotland in 2014. Scottish citizens will vote on whether their country should remain part of the United Kingdom or break away and become independent.
The development comes after weeks of negotiations between the two sides on the exact wording and timing of the referendum deal. The 2014 date for the vote is likely to be interpreted as a victory for Salmond, who now has two years to amass support for his independence movement.
Cameron, who strongly opposes the breakaway, had pushed for an earlier vote because current opinion polls show that Scots in favor of independence are currently in the minority, representing between a quarter and a third of voters.
"Scotland voted for a party that wanted to hold a referendum," said Cameron. "I believe in showing respect. This is the right outcome for Scotland and for the United Kingdom to give the people the choice."
"But I passionately hope and believe that they will vote to keep the United Kingdom together," the prime minister added. "We are better off together, we are stronger together, we are safer together."
Salmond has said he supports independence "not because I think we are better than any other country, but because I know that we are as good as any other country." Scotland has been united with England since 1707.
sej,dr/ccp (AFP, AP, Reuters)