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). The agreement was signed by Prime Minister David Cameron; Michael Moore, Minister of Scotland; Alex Salmond, Premier; And Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister. As with all agreements, a key mechanism for the application of reciprocity – I will stick to my side if you respect yours. Here, the agreement is regularized to the extent that it provides obligations for most contingencies, with clear timetables and precise language. The word “ratification” and the ceremony related to the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement indicated a process similar to that of a treaty. It was an agreement between two heads of government and their senior ministers. This is obviously not a legal treaty, since under the Treaty of Viennese, a treaty is “an international agreement concluded by states”. International law adds that the parties must intend to create legal obligations at the international level. In the case of the Edinburgh Agreement, only one party was a sovereign state. Finally, and even more provocatively, if Scotland voted “yes” and the separation of Scotland were negotiated with the United Kingdom, a whole series of agreements would have to be concluded between the United Kingdom and the Scottish Government, and the difficulty of finding a binding legal form for these agreements would probably be highlighted. As far as reputation is concerned, the party that violates this agreement will in future be considered unreliable and less likely to sign credible agreements with it.
These costs are real for the UK government, which sees itself as a credible international deal-maker, but also for other de decentralised regions where deployment could be even higher (Northern Ireland). But they are also real for the Scottish Government, which is trying to present itself as a sovereign government, which is waiting for those who are trying to convince it to vote for independence, but also for states and external organisations (see EU debates). Reputation costs are increased by having an agreement with clear obligations that leave as little room for ambiguity as possible, and also by making them public with great fanfare. The public signing of the agreement by two governments increases the cost of reputational violations, but also extends these costs to future governments in the UK or Scotland if one of these governments changes before all commitments are implemented and attempts to change attitudes (which can never be completely ruled out). This dynamic of reciprocity and prestige may also explain why a British government, which had something to lose from the symbolism of the “treaty” of the common signature of the government, was happy to approve it. It should first provide its main page of the good deal – Section 30 Order – and then it must rely on confidence to fulfil important commitments of the Scottish Government.