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 second part of the document, the Memorandum of Understanding, contains clauses and narrow wording and appears to be much more « legal » than the opening agreement. It contains « elements of the agreement that require a legal provision in The Section 30 Regulation » but also « elements that have been agreed between governments on a non-legal basis. » The third document, the draft order section 30, is a bill (but of course it still has to go through the confirmation processes by the United Kingdom and the Scottish parliaments to become law). It is interesting to note that another point related to the referendum is not specifically addressed by the agreement; Indeed, the agreement does not specify exactly what will happen to the referendum result. The agreement says the parties will agree that the referendum « will provide a fair test and decisive expression of the views of the Scottish people and a result that everyone will respect. » Paragraph 30 of the Memorandum of Understanding states that « both governments are committed to continuing to cooperate constructively in the best interests of the people of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, in light of the results achieved. » But even that does not clearly say what one of the two governments must do to respect the result. The details of the agreement between governments are set out in the memorandum and draft regulation that are part of this agreement.
The role of « political implementation » could begin to explain why the parties submitted an agreement in law, legal form and in the midst of a signing ceremony. Paradoxically, the agreement could be presented in such a formal manner, precisely because it did not have a binding legal status. The most important mechanism for enforcing such agreements is two dynamics: the development of reciprocal agreements, the implementation of which is in the interests of the parties, and the creation of costs for the reputation of a party in the event of an infringement. Scottish National Party chairman and prime minister Alex Salmond argued that given the importance of the vote, there was not much to do in haste. Thus, the SNP`s preferred date would be towards the end of the 2011-2015 legislature. Autumn 2014 was chosen for a number of reasons: it came after the Glasgow Commonwealth Games (where Scotland was going to run, which may have given a boost to national pride similar to what the Olympics did for Team GB) and was six months before the next British general election (in spring 2015).