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Salmond unveils referendum plans

Alex Salmond is to unveil his Government's plans for a vote on independence for Scotland.

The Scottish First Minister will launch a consultation on the referendum at Holyrood.

The Scottish National Party administration in Edinburgh has already announced autumn 2014 as its preferred date for a vote on ending the 300 year plus long union. There has also been speculation the consultation could open up voting in a referendum to 16 and 17-year-olds, and may also raise the prospect of holding the crucial ballot on a Saturday.

A spokesman for the First Minister said: "This is a big day for Scotland as we publish our detailed proposals for the referendum and consult with the people. Scotland is moving forward, and we look forward to the great debate that lies ahead.

"The Scottish Government and people across Scotland believe that we can and will make a compelling case for independence - with the powers we need to build an economically-successful and socially-just nation. While others disagree, we do come together on the democratic principle that it is a decision for Scotland to make. And the referendum must also be made in Scotland."

It comes after Mr Salmond said that the relationship between Scotland and England would be "much stronger" if the former was made independent. He told an audience in London this would "be more positive and much stronger when our nations are clear and equal partners".

The First Minister also insisted decisions over the referendum should be taken in Scotland, saying: "The days of Westminster politicians with a shaky mandate in Scotland - actually a non-existent mandate in Scotland - determining the means by which Scotland will decide its own future, I think these days have gone."

Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said later the issue of having a devo-max option on the ballot paper was a "simple one of democracy".

Ms Sturgeon told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "The SNP's preferred option is independence. That's the option we want to see on the ballot paper, it's the outcome we will be campaigning for.

"The issue of a second question is a simple one of democracy. There is a body of opinion in Scotland that wants to see an outcome short of independence. Our view certainly at this stage is, why should that be ruled out as an option. It's an issue of democracy and we want to hear what people have to say."

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