Newsbeat's guide to... Scottish independence vote


Scottish flag painted on a man's face

David Cameron and Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, have set out plans for a vote on whether the country should become independent from the rest of the UK.

Sixteen and 17-year-olds are to be given the chance to have their say in the referendum, which is due to take place in the autumn of 2014.

A second question on further devolution, short of independence and sometimes called "devolution-max", had been ditched earlier after being opposed by the UK Government which wanted a single Yes/No question.

Why is there going to be a vote?

Scotland joined England to become part of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 as part of the Act of Union.

The country only became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in the early 1800s.

In 1934 the Scottish National Party (SNP) was created.

However, the process of Scottish devolution did not begin until 1999 under Tony Blair's Labour government.

The SNP then had to wait until 2007 before it won enough votes to form a minority government in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.

It took another four years before it won enough seats for a majority government, in 2011, when it began the process of holding a referendum on independence.

Who are the main players?

Alex Salmond and David Cameron
Image caption Alex Salmond and David Cameron agreed on independence referendum

SNP leader Alex Salmond is the main driver behind a Scottish independence referendum who was elected first minister by the Scottish Parliament in 2007.

The SNP pledged to hold an independence referendum by 2010 but couldn't push its plans through parliament as a minority party.

However, after winning a majority in 2011 it was announced that a referendum would be held towards the end of 2014.

Prime Minister David Cameron is opposed to Scotland leaving the United Kingdom as are the Scottish Conservative Party, Scottish Labour Party and Scottish Liberal Democrats.

What are the arguments?

The SNP wants Scotland to be an independent country so it can make all its own decisions.

At the moment it can only take decisions in certain political areas that are devolved, like health and education.

It would also like defence and foreign policy to be made by an independent Scottish government including other options like a Scottish passport and the disarmament of nuclear weapons.

Critics say the country would not be able to financially support itself, but independence supporters point to being able to use the profits from North Sea oil.

Opponents also think close economic and personal links between the two countries would be damaged and say both would be worse off by breaking apart politically.

BBC News: 12 unresolved questions on Scottish independence