by Ray Fleming

The agreement reached earlier this week between London and Edinburgh on the terms and conditions for a referendum on Scotland's independence is broadly satisfactory. Each side has compromised -- David Cameron by agreeing to a vote in 2014 instead of his preferred 2013 and accepting that 16 and 17 year olds should have the right to vote, Alex Salmond by agreeing to a single straightforward Yes/No question instead of the double question including the alternative of an extension of devolution which he has talked about.

The 2014 date will coincide with celebrations for the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn which secured an earlier independence for Scotland and also with the local staging of the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup.

The participation of youngsters will add about 123'000 potential voters to a four million electorate. But Mr Cameron has correctly reckoned that the single question agreement is all important and worth conceding less important matters. He has also made it clear that a vote for independence will mean the end of all forms of devolution while a vote for the status quo will leave open the possibility of increased devolution.

There is a mountain of constitutional and administrative work to be completed before the referendum takes place two years from now.
The signs are that the longstanding one-third maximum support for independence will not have changed greatly by then.