Referendum date to be announced on Thursday

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  By a Newsnet reporter

First Minister Alex Salmond is due to announce the precise date of next year’s independence referendum on Thursday this week.

Mr Salmond will make the announcement by delivering a statement to MSPs at Holyrood. 

The referendum is due in autumn 2014, and there has been considerable speculation about the exact date.

When the year of the referendum was first announced, many commentators in the UK media averred that it was to be held on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, 24th June.  This suggestion was dismissed by sources close to Mr Salmond, who pointed out that June is not in autumn.

In February last year, the Sun newspaper claimed that the referendum was to be held on Saturday 18 October.  However the Scottish government insisted that a final decision on the date had not yet been taken.  

Observers consider it unlikely that the Scottish government will opt for the date “revealed” by the Sun.  However, holding the referendum on a Saturday remains a possibility, even though ballots in the UK are traditionally held on Thursdays.

The question to be asked has now been settled: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”  Last week, the Scottish government formally lodged proposals to lower the referendum voting age to 16, under the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill, extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds.  

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Next week the First Minister intends to inform Parliament of the date of Scotland’s referendum. In Autumn of 2014 we will have the historic opportunity to ensure that decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland – the people who live here.

“The choice becomes clearer every day: the opportunity to use our vast resources and talent to build a better country or to continue with a Westminster system that isn’t working.”

She added:

“It is only a yes vote that will see nuclear weapons removed from our shores and give Scotland the power to choose for ourselves whether or not we send our brave young servicemen and women to war.”