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Salmond announces 'clear' question for referendum on Scottish independence

…and voters will have plenty of time to think about their response: he says he’ll hold the referendum in the autumn of 2014.

Image: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

SCOTLAND’S FIRST MINISTER Alex Salmond has formally outlined his proposal for a referendum on full Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.

In a consultation paper published today, Salmond proposed that the referendum ask a ‘clear’ question:

Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?

Salmond told members of the Scottish Assembly in Holyrood that the ballot may also contain an option where the public could vote for ‘devo max’ – a system where Scotland remains part of the UK, but takes on a greater financial independence.

The BBC quotes him as telling membesr that if there was “an alternative of maximum devolution which would command wide support in Scotland, then it is only fair and democratic that option should be among the choices open to the people of Scotland”.

Salmond said the London government appeared to oppose including that option on the ballot – trying to turn the vote into a straightforward question of whether Scotland should cede from the United Kingdom, where it has been since 1707.

Some of the proposals may still meet with London’s opposition, however: the Guardian points out that the consultation paper outlines how the ballot should be run by the UK’s Electoral Commission, but does not allow it to set its own question.

It adds that when Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg proposed the wording for last year’s referendum on changing the voting system, his wording was rejected because it could have been politically biased.

While Salmond wants to consider extending the vote to all Scottish people aged 16 and over – arguing that anyone who can serve in the military should be able to vote for the country’s future – he does not plan to extend the vote to the Scottish diaspora.

The paper published today proposes that a Bill on the referendum should be introduced to the Holyrood parliament in early 2013, with approval and royal assent then being given by October of that year.

That move would give voters a full year’s notice of the ballot, which Salmond wants to be held in autumn 2014. If Scotland votes for independence, Salmond believes a fully independent Scottish parliament could be elected by May 2016.

Read: Scotland insists it has mandate for independence referendum in 2014

Poll: Should Scotland leave the UK?

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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