The Edinburgh Agreement includes a main agreement signed on behalf of the Scottish Government by Prime Minister David Cameron, Scottish Secretary of State Michael Moore and First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. This main agreement outlines in broad terms the principles to which both governments have committed themselves – rather, it is a “declaration of principles” that gives more detailed commitments (see the similar structure of peace agreements in the Middle East!). This preliminary agreement is accompanied by a Memorandum of Understanding and a draft of Section 30, which are part of the front-piece agreement “part of this agreement”. From a technical point of view, therefore, the “Edinburgh Convention” covers all three documents. The decolonization project of the British Empire, in which the British government signed decolonization agreements with governments (at the time) of sub-states or groups of leaders who did not have the status of a new state at the time of signing and whose agreements were therefore of ambiguous legal status. Countries were on the road to independence, which led to arguments that local signatories are not actually sub-governmental entities without contractual capacity, but are signed as a “pending state,” and the resulting documents have some sort of international legal status. This argument does not apply to the Edinburgh Agreement, in which the United Kingdom does not accept the intention to act at the international level, or that internal relations are in fact in transition to international relations. This lack of international intent also excludes theories that the UK has entered into a binding unilateral international agreement with the Scottish Government. It is interesting to note, however, that these arguments could apply to agreements on the terms of separation between the two governments if the referendum on success and secession were negotiated. What commitments would the British government have in the event of a “yes” vote? The historical statements, precedents and statements of the current British government seem to make it clear that the British government will apply a “yes” and that this is not controversial. However, the exclusion of any firm commitment to implement the result should perhaps still be noted, especially since the only other legal provision relating to a referendum on secession, provided for by the Northern Ireland Act 1998, contains clear legal provisions for transposing the result into Westminster legislation. Does this mean that the UK government must approve independence, whatever form the Scottish Government wants, even if the implementation of a “yes” vote is assured? Indeed, the text of paragraph 30 may indicate that this is not the case. This formulation reflects the reluctance to specify a pre-referendum obligation that could foreshadow a complex negotiation on the form of independence: the UK government clearly does not want to commit in advance on issues such as currency, monarchy, Trident, etc.
(see below, Michael Moore`s answers to the Scottish Committee). However, the ambiguity of this paragraph also raises the question of respect for the obligation of “constructive cooperation in light of the outcome” of a Scottish government led by the SNP. One can imagine the arguments that might emerge as to how it expresses its commitment to the current decentralisation agreements as a government with regard to its aspirations (probably ongoing) for the independence of the SNP as a party. In 2007, the Scottish National Party (SNP) was elected to power as a minority government, but was returned in 2011 with a majority (69 seats out of 129) and a manifesto to hold a referendum on Scottish independence. The debate intensified in 2011 and 2012, when the Scottish Government`s right to hold a referendum was questioned with the UK government, which insisted that this would require legislation from the UK Parliament.