Scottish independence: Referendum date set to be revealed by Alex Salmond

Alex Salmond Alex Salmond is hoping to reveal the referendum date to Holyrood

First Minister Alex Salmond is expected to make public the date of Scotland's referendum on independence.

The Scottish government will ask parliament officials if it can make a statement to MSPs on Thursday in which the autumn 2014 date will be revealed.

The ballot paper question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" has already been confirmed.

In addition, the government last week formally lodged plans to lower the referendum voting age to 16.

The SNP administration believed that making public the referendum date was the "next step in the process".

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "In Autumn of 2014, we will have the historic opportunity to ensure that decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland - the people who live here.

"The choice becomes clearer every day - the opportunity to use our vast resources and talent to build a better country or to continue with a Westminster system that isn't working."

She added that only a "yes" vote would allow "us to use Scotland's natural assets to build a strong economy that protects the vulnerable and tackles inequality".

Parliamentary procedure

The Scottish government will propose at a meeting of Holyrood's Parliamentary Bureau on Tuesday, March 18, that a statement on Scotland's referendum is made on Thursday, March 21, which would include the proposed date in autumn 2014 when a referendum on independence will be held.

"It is only a yes vote that will see nuclear weapons removed from our shores and give Scotland the power to choose for ourselves whether or not we send our brave young servicemen and women to war," said Ms Sturgeon.

Scottish Labour questioned why the SNP had so far kept "Scotland in the dark over this date".

The party's Patricia Ferguson said: "They are announcing their announcement now to deflect attention because they are in such deep trouble over their plans for state control of the press.

"It's the equivalent of saying, 'look, there's a squirrel'."

Question wording

Politicians at Holyrood will determine the arrangements for the referendum after Mr Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron signed a deal in Edinburgh in October.

The agreement included:

  • A statutory order, which was legislated at Westminster, granting Holyrood powers to hold a single-question independence referendum by the end of 2014 and covering other issues like campaign broadcasts.
  • A "memorandum of agreement", which was signed by political leaders, confirming that the details of the referendum would be settled at Holyrood.
  • A significant role for the Electoral Commission watchdog in advising on the wording of the question, the running of the referendum and areas including campaign finance.

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