Salmond wants autumn 2014 ballot

To every thing its season - and tonight the First Minister has named the season for his planned independence referendum.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption Alex Salmond gave his preferred date for the referendum in a BBC interview

Alex Salmond wants the ballot to take place in the autumn of 2014. (This news, incidentally, was first broadcast on BBC Scotland. Thought you should know.)

Why that date? A number of reasons.

Firstly, it matches the promise delivered by the First Minister during the Holyrood election campaign that the plebiscite would not occur before the second half of the current session.

Secondly, Alex Salmond says it meets the exigencies of planning and procedure.

He envisages the following: a consultation document on how to run the referendum by the end of this month; a consultation period; preparation of the necessary Bill and accompanying material; introduction of the Bill in January 2013; passage of that Bill by the autumn of 2013; then the "cooling off period" between legislation for elections and the ballot itself, prescribed following the chaos which attended an earlier, ill-prepared Holyrood election; then moves to avoid the European elections in June and the Commonwealth Games; adding up to a referendum on independence in the autumn of 2014.

One element not mentioned in that list. Is the referendum as it stands legal? Will there be a legal challenge from an aggrieved citizen?

The UK Government says the plebiscite plans breach the law as the constitution is reserved to Westminster - and thus anything attendant upon the constitution.

Mr Salmond dissents - and, for now, proposes to set aside that advice and, consequently, the "package with strings attached" offered by the UK Government as a remedy.

As billed previously, more discussion to come on this process. Much, much more.