Scotland sets date for historic vote on independence
SCOTLAND'S future in the United Kingdom will be put to the vote in a historic ballot in September next year.
First Minister Alex Salmond revealed September 18, 2014 as the long-awaited date for the independence referendum.
It will be a "historic day when the people will decide Scotland's future", he said.
Ending the union will enable Scotland to have a "new, more modern relationship with the other nations of the UK" that would be a "true partnership of equals", he said.
Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said: "I am confident when Scots go to the polls they will vote in favour of Scotland staying within a strong and secure UK family."
The UK government minister said: "The debate about Scotland's future has already begun and will only intensify, and that is something I look forward to."
British Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said the referendum date was a "matter for the Scottish Government".
He stressed: "The prime minister will continue to very strongly make the case for Scotland remaining in the union, that being in the interests of both Scotland and the United Kingdom."
As Mr Salmond announced the referendum date to a packed Holyrood chamber, the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill was published, which the first minister hailed as the "most important" piece of legislation since the devolved Scottish Parliament was established in 1999.
The ballot is taking place with the Scottish National Party on an unprecedented majority at Holyrood, after winning the 2011 election. Negotiations with the UK government followed, with the first minister and Mr Cameron signing a deal on the ballot last October.
Voters will simply be asked: should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No.
Mr Salmond said the Edinburgh agreement gave Holyrood the "unchallengeable authority to organise a referendum".
The Scottish Government has brought forward separate legislation to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in the ballot.