Scotland’s referendum will be held on 18 September next year, First Minister Alex Salmond announced in the Scottish Parliament today.
The date is contained in the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, introduced to the Parliament and published today, which also confirms that voters will be asked the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
The legislation provides that the referendum will be:
•preceded by a 16-week formal campaign period, during which limits will apply to the amount of money any registered participant may spend on campaigning, aimed at ensuring a level playing field for both sides of the debate
•overseen by the independent Electoral Commission, responsible for regulating the campaign rules, informing the public about the referendum and reporting to the Scottish Parliament on the conduct and administration of the referendum
•conducted under the direction of a Chief Counting Officer responsible for appointing local Counting Officers to run the poll in local areas.
First Minister Alex Salmond said, “It will be a historic day, and one on which this ancient nation decides its place in the world. People will be able to choose if they want a Scotland that is independent and able to make her own decisions – with a Scottish Parliament that is responsible for making the most of Scotland’s rich resources to benefit its communities and safeguard the welfare of our most vulnerable citizens and accountable for how we engage other nations around the world.”
“Devolution has shown how we can use Holyrood’s powers to improve lives in the policy areas where we are already effectively independent.”
Salmond also said, “Scotland has made great strides since our national Parliament was reconvened in 1999 after almost 300 years. We are a more confident country, secure in the knowledge that when we take decisions for ourselves we can help make this a better place to live for all our citizens. Landmark policies introduced since devolution have made Scotland a safer, healthier and fairer country. Throughout the Parliament’s history, we have used our powers for progressive purposes – such as free personal care, pioneering homelessness legislation, an end to tuition fees, and protecting the National Health Service.”
“Scotland now faces two futures: continuing with an outdated political entity that ill-serves the interests of the people of Scotland – a system that will continue to give us governments we didn’t vote for. Or independence, where Scotland will get a Parliament that is both fully-empowered and fully-accountable to those whose lives are affected by its actions.”
“With full economic levers and access to our huge natural resources, we can not only defend the progress made with devolution but we can become a fairer, more prosperous society. And one where a new, 21st Century relationship is forged between the nations of these islands and with the wider community of nations.
“18 September 2014 can be a date which becomes etched in our nation’s story as the day Scotland took a decisive step forward to a better, fairer future,” Salmond said.