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Scottish independence: SNP confirms referendum question

media captionScottish First Minister Alex Salmond has said he wants to hold the referendum in autumn 2014

The Scottish government has confirmed the wording of the question it plans to put to the people of Scotland in the independence referendum.

People will be asked to vote "yes" or "no" to the question: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"

The question will now be scrutinised by the Electoral Commission watchdog.

Critics of the question say it encourages a "yes" vote by not mentioning an end to the Union.

Scottish ministers first announced their preferred wording for the question in January.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to the Electoral Commission asking them to test the Scottish government's preferred wording.

The Electoral Commission, an independent body, will test the question in focus groups to decide whether it is fair and easily understood.

The final wording will be included in a bill at Holyrood in the spring of next year.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The question will be tested to check that it is easy to understand, to the point and unambiguous.

Final wording

"The Electoral Commission are experts in question testing and will use focus groups and gather views from experts in accessibility and plain language, and others who have an interest in the referendum and its outcome, before reporting on the proposed question."

The Scottish government has insisted that the parliament at Holyrood will have the final say on the recommendations from the Electoral Commission.

Ms Sturgeon added: "Once they have reported back, it will then be for the Scottish parliament to decide the final wording of the question on the ballot paper."

There have been calls from the SNP's opponents for a redrafting of the question to include the options "I agree" and "I disagree".

The Scottish Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders issued a joint statement on Friday.

Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie said: "It is vital that the referendum properly reflects the will of the Scottish people.

"We look forward to hearing the views of the Electoral Commission and will abide by its ruling. It is our hope that the SNP government will also follow the Electoral Commission's decision and publicly commit to its ruling.

"As an independent arbiter, the Electoral Commission is the best judge of what question will allow for a fair, legal and decisive referendum."

John McCormick, the Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, said: "We will assess the referendum question to see whether voters find it clear, simple and neutral.

"If it isn't, we'll say what needs to be done."

He said the commission's focus throughout the assessment process would be on what is in the voters' interests.

The referendum - due to be held in autumn 2014 - came after the UK and Scottish governments recently signed a deal on its terms, known as the Edinburgh Agreement.