EDINBURGH: Scotland set up a historic referendum after its leader signed an agreement with Britain’s prime minister Monday to finalize arrangements for a vote that could lead to the demise of its three-centuries-old union with England.
Scotland’s drive for sovereignty, led by its nationalist leader Alex Salmond, echoes separatist moves by other European regions such as Catalonia and Flanders which feel they could prosper as separate entities inside the EU.
Signed in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, the deal will allow Scotland to decide in a 2014 referendum whether it should become an independent country or stay within the U.K.
Among its other concerns, Britain is worried about the future of its nuclear submarine fleet based in Scotland as Salmond says there would be no place for nuclear arms on Scotland’s soil after independence.
Salmond said it was a historic day and that the agreement paved the way for “a new partnership in these islands.”
“The Scottish government has an ambitious vision for Scotland: A prosperous and successful European country, reflecting Scottish values of fairness and opportunity, promoting equality and social cohesion,” he said.
Prime Minister David Cameron opposes Scotland’s push, but London agrees it is up to Scotland to decide its future for itself in a vote.
“I passionately believe that Scotland would be better off in the United Kingdom, but also crucially that the United Kingdom would be better off with Scotland,” Cameron told reporters. “I will be arguing to keep the family together.”
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 16, 2012, on page 11.