The Edinburgh Agreement states that both governments must respect the result of the referendum:
The two governments are committed to continue to work together constructively in the light of the outcome, whatever it is, in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom.
In theory, this should mean that Westminster after a Yes vote will negotiate the terms of independence constructively and as fast a reasonable possible. The Scottish Government has already stated that it believes it should be possible to conclude the talks in time for Scotland to become independent on 24 March 2016, and several independent observers have agreed this is a realistic time scale.
However, what happens if the 2015 General Election becomes a competition about who will be toughest on Scotland, and the resulting government is unwilling to compromise in order to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement? Or what if Westminster gets distracted by other issues (such as UKIP and the Brexit) and kicks the independence negotiations into the long grass?
A unilateral declaration of independence (a UDI) is normally something a prospective country issues when it has been denied a proper democratic path to independence.
So if Scotland votes Yes, and the Scottish Government does its best to negotiate in good faith, but Westminster acts as described above, will an independence declaration be a UDI, or will Scotland be entitled to do so as a result of the Edinburgh Agreement? Basically the independence declaration would say something like this: We have followed the Edinburgh Agreement in letter and spirit, but the Westminster Government is refusing to negotiate in good faith, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we have to declare independence and resume the negotiations as an independent country.
Surely other countries would study the Edinburgh Agreement and conclude that Westminster was the culprit and that the Scottish independence declaration was just, valid and legal.
Hopefully this will be unnecessary, but when I read articles about how the Westminster Government isn’t even planning for the negotiations, I can’t help thinking they might need to be given a deadline in order to conclude them in a timely fashion.
As I’ve mentioned before, I do worry that the 2015 General Election will be such a mess if conducted during the independence negotiations that the only reasonable solutions are either to conclude the negotiations before April 2015 or to postpone the election till after Scottish Independence Day. Hopefully Westminster will soon wake up to the real possibility that we’ll vote Yes and will start planning for this scenario in earnest.