Scottish independence: Scottish Sun on Sunday 'names' referendum date

Scottish Sun on Sunday
Image caption The new Scottish Sun on Sunday "naming" the date of the referendum

The first edition of the Scottish Sun on Sunday has claimed to name the date of the independence referendum.

The headline reads "Day of destiny" with Saturday 18 October 2014 named as the date the referendum is to be held.

In the front page story a government source is quoted: "This date is being lined up as the day people will get the chance to vote for independence and equality for Scotland."

The Scottish government said: "This date is, of course, a possibility."

It had already revealed it planned to hold the referendum in autumn 2014.

The SNP's Treasury spokesman Stuart Hosie told the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme: "The 18th of October is certainly in the autumn of 2014 and because it's a Saturday, not a Thursday, that's one of the area's the Scottish government are consulting on.

"But the key point is that the consultation isn't finished and I think it would be wrong for anyone to pre-empt the date that might be concluded from the consultation."

The Scottish government said the consultation had already generated more than 2,500 responses.

Despite the Scottish government saying the date was just a possibility, Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said: "The Scottish government's declaration of a date for the referendum shows what the rest of Scotland already knows - that they are simply stalling for time without explaining why.

He added: "Last week I published a simple timeline showing we can hold the referendum in 2013. I suspect many people in Scotland will also be disappointed to see the Scottish government's proposed date being revealed to a newspaper before the public."

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "Coming just as Scotland's second biggest company warns of the risk to investment, I do not understand the need for a three-year delay.

"Alex Salmond is supposed to be consulting with the Scottish people about his preferred date, but seems more interested in consulting with Rupert Murdoch."

And Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Tories, said the date could fall within the autumn school holidays, which risked disenfranchising many voters."

Earlier this week, the Scottish Sun on Sunday's owner Rupert Murdoch appeared to hint at support for Scottish independence on the social network service Twitter.

The head of News Corporation, tweeted: "Let Scotland go and compete. Everyone would win."

Murdoch tweet

It follows a tweet last Saturday in which he said: "Alex Salmond clearly most brilliant politician in U.K. Gave Cameron back of his hand this week. Loved by Scots."

News Corporation is the parent company of News International, which runs The Sun and The Times newspapers.

The Sun, owned by News International, switched from outright opposition to the SNP before the 2007 election to support for the party at the election last May.

First Minister Alex Salmond spoke with Mr Murdoch this week.

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said the first minister called Mr Murdoch to discuss The Sun on Sunday, and said they also talked about the tweet.

Mr Salmond said: "It was an interesting eight words: a textbook example of how to deploy a tweet and cause a great stir.

"We are in a debate in Scotland and internationally about Scotland's future, and I welcome all contributions to the debate, including Mr Murdoch's."

Journalist meetings

Last August, the Scottish government published letters between Mr Salmond and Mr Murdoch, which showed attempts to bring Mr Murdoch to Scotland as the guest of honour at the Gathering, a cultural celebration intended as the centrepiece of the Year of Homecoming.

The first minister suggested it would be a great spectacle for coverage by Sky television.

An invitation was also extended to Mr Murdoch for him to join Mr Salmond at a golf event in Kentucky in the US.

In another letter, Mr Salmond offered the tycoon tickets for a performance of the Black Watch play in Brooklyn, New York.

The letters came with a list of dates and names covering meetings held with editors, journalists and other executives stretching back to June 2007, shortly after the SNP first took office.

Mr Murdoch arrived in the UK last week and supervised production of the new Sunday tabloid.

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