Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has announced the date for the country’s independence referendum. It is to be held on September 18, 2014.
Scotland’s 5.25 million people will have the chance to decide on whether to leave the United Kingdom. Voters will answer the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” with the clear choice ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
Current opinion polls put support for independence at just 30 percent among Scottish voters but Salmond has given himself 545 days to turn that around.
Supporters of the ‘Yes’ vote will hope Scotland’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games and events surrounding the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, where Robert Bruce’s army defeated the forces of King Edward II, will provide a patriotic push towards a split with the United Kingdom.
After announcing the ballot date, Salmond said: “Scotland now faces two futures – continuing with an outdated political entity that ill-serves the interests of the people of Scotland, a system that will continue to give us governments we didn’t vote for.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.”
Salmond was criticised by the leader of the opposition in Scotland’s parliament, the Scottish Labour Party, for dragging his feet over setting a date. Johann Lamont called the announcement “an attempt to con the people into believing that we have moved a step towards independence when we haven’t.”
She said: “If the hand of history is on the First Minister’s shoulder, I do wish it would give him a shove and he’d get on with it,” adding “What I do not understand is that if leaving the United Kingdom is key to Scotland’s prosperity, why he wants Scotland to languish for another year-and-a-half before we get the chance to vote on it. The truth is Alex Salmond knows if he held the referendum now he wouldn’t just lose it, he would be routed.”
There will be an official 16 week campaign period in the run up to the referendum, with limits set on what parties can spend in an effort to ensure fairness.