New deal could lead to Scotland's independence from UK

Scotland to get vote on independence
Cameron and Salmond

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Story highlights

  • Brits, Scots agree to hold referendum on Scottish independence
  • The up-or-down vote will probably happen in 2014
  • British PM David Cameron and most Scots polled are against an autonomous Scotland

More than 700 years after William Wallace died fighting for Scottish independence, and more than 300 years after Scotland and England came together in a United Kingdom, a new agreement could lead to an independent Scotland.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Scottish counterpart, First Minister Alex Salmond, signed a deal in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Monday paving the way for Scots to vote on independence from the United Kingdom, Cameron's office announced on Twitter. The referendum, expected to be held in 2014, would allow Scots a straight yes-or-no vote on staying in the union.

The "Yes Scotland" campaign launched in May, trying to "build a groundswell of support for an independent Scotland," with the backing of several famous Scots, most notably actor Sean Connery. Salmond and his Scottish National Party (SNP), which holds power in the Scottish parliament, have pushed for the vote.

A survey released last week by TNS-BMRB showed that only 28% of Scots favor leaving the United Kingdom.

That's somewhat in line with an Ipsos MORI poll of 1,002 Scots, taken in late August, that showed sharp political differences within Scotland. That survey showed that more than 60% of SNP supporters desire full independence. However, only about a third of all the Scots polled wanted to break away from the United Kingdom.

Some detractors have expressed concern about Scotland's economic viability as an independent state. But oil from the North Sea, off the Scottish coast, has enriched the United Kingdom for decades. And the SNP, on its website, says independence "could create an environment where our existing and new private industries can grow more easily," and the party touts a country that retains the British pound, while its future European Union membership creates the benefits of "open borders, shared rights, free trade and extensive cooperation."

Cameron has vocally opposed Scottish independence. In February, he said he was "100% clear that I will fight with everything I have to keep our United Kingdom together," since an intact United Kingdom, consisting of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, "is stronger, safer, richer and fairer."

In medieval times, Scotland fought for freedom from England, which Mel Gibson dramatically depicted in his Academy Award-winning movie "Braveheart." Not long after Wallace died in the early 1300s, Robert the Bruce led Scotland to independence, and it remained an autonomous nation until the Act of Union joined Scotland and England in 1707.

The United Kingdom returned some autonomy to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and gave them the right to form their own parliaments, in the late 1990s.

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