The Coalition Government has dismissed Lord Forsyth's claim that Alex Salmond has emerged the victor in the referendum negotiations between the UK and Scottish Government.

A senior source said it was not about "winners and losers" after the former Scottish Secretary said David Cameron had caved in to Nationalist demands, branding the Prime Minister Pontius Pilate.

"He is just saying – over to you, Alex. Once that order is passed it's a matter for Alex Salmond, so he is going to dictate the terms," said the Tory peer.

He added: "Salmond has been able to get what he wants. If that's called a negotiation, that's stretching the language. It sounds like a walkover to me."

But the Coalition source told The Herald: "It's not a question of winners and losers; we could say the same thing, having secured a single question. What we wanted was a fair, legal and decisive referendum that will be made in Scotland and that's what we've got. Both sides can be happy about that."

UK Government ministers and officials were, The Herald has been told, never in any real doubt an agreement would be signed and believe it is a triumph for the "reasonableness strategy" adopted by Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary.

When Mr Cameron and the First Minister sit down to sign the St Andrew's House Accord today, they will agree what is effectively a memorandum of understanding about how the independence referendum will be run. It will contain a draft of the Section 30 Order needed to transfer the legal power from Westminster to Holyrood as well as other sections that relate to issues such as the role of the Electoral Commission, the franchise and campaign funding.

The agreement will say:

l The independence referendum has to take place before December 31, 2014, when the power to hold it expires;

l There will be a single question, with its subject being the "independence of Scotland";

l The "intelligibility" of the question will be assessed by the Electoral Commission, with Holyrood having the final say;

l The issue of the franchise will be for the Scottish Parliament to determine and;

l Campaign funding will accord with rules set out by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000.

Mr Cameron has made it clear he is "not fussy" about the date of the referendum, which is due to take place in autumn 2014.

The single question has been a red line for the UK Government, which believed a second "more powers" option would have led to confusion and an inevitable legal challenge.

The issue of funding, it is thought, has been one of the most vexed in the intergovernmental talks. A senior Coalition source explained it would be governed by the PPERA and would therefore follow the rules of previous referendums.

Under Schedule 14 of that Act, campaign groups can spend up to £500,000 while political parties can spend up to £5 million, depending on their share of the vote at the previous General Election.

The commission is proposing a limit of £1.5m for each main campaign group and £750,000 for each political party, which is double in each instance that which the SNP wants. The Nationalists fear that in the weeks running up to the poll, the pro-UK forces will have up to £2m more to spend than the pro-independence ones.

PPERA stipulates the "referendum period" should be no longer than six months.