Scots will vote on whether or not the country should become independent on September 18 2014.
The long-awaited date for the historic ballot was announced by Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond. The Scottish National Party leader declared that would be the "historic day when the people will decide Scotland's future".
Mr Salmond announced the date to Holyrood as the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill was published. The Bill is "the most important legislation to be introduced" since the devolved Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, the First Minister said.
He said the legislation is important for what it would allow Scotland to achieve "with the powers of an independent country".
The vote is taking place after the Scottish National Party won an unprecedented majority in Holyrood in the 2011 election. Mr Salmond said that in the ballot the people of Scotland would have a choice.
"Next year the choice facing the people is one of two futures. A No vote means a future of governments we didn't vote for, imposing cuts and policies we didn't support. A Yes vote means a future where we can be absolutely certain, 100% certain, that the people of Scotland will get the government they vote for," he said.
Mr Salmond said: "I am honoured to announce that on Thursday September 18 2014 we will hold Scotland's referendum - a historic day when the people will decide Scotland's future."
The ballot takes place 547 days from now, he said. "I believe it will be the day we take responsibility for our country, when we are able to speak with our own voice, choose our own direction and contribute in our own distinct way."
Leaving the United Kingdom and becoming a separate country would give Scotland a "new, more modern relationship with the other nations of the UK" that would be a "true partnership of equals".
He said: "I believe on September 18 the people of Scotland will vote Yes to create a better country than we have now, one we can pass on with pride to the next generation."