Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, has announced details of the consultation on a referendum for independence, refusing to rule out a third 'devo-max' option and saying the vote would be held in 2014.
Speaking to Scottish MPs, he said the proposed referendum question would be "short, straightforward and clear," with the question "do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"
But he refused to rule out a third 'devo-max' option, adding it was "only fair and democratic" that popular choices would be open to the Scottish people.
In a challenge to the UK government, he said: "Let me be quite clear.. the terms of the referendum are for the Scottish parliament and the Scottish people to decide."
Salmond said he proposed only those living in Scotland would vote in the referendum: "The people who live and work in Scotland are best placed to decide its future," he told MSPs.
The SNP head added: "We are therefore seeking views on the right to vote in this referendum to 16 and 17-year-olds," he said.
"We can be both independent and interdependent," he assured MSPs. "Scotland's journey, our home rule journey, is clearly part of a bigger international picture. After all independence is what we seek as individuals.. Not being independent is the exception."
Salmond described the vote on whether or not Scotland should stay in the United Kingdom as "the most important decision by the people of Scotland in 300 years", adding that the electoral commission would regulate the referendum.
In response Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, John McCormick, said: "We welcome the opportunity to give full and careful consideration to the Scottish Government's proposals at this stage. Our priority is to ensure any referendum is well run, transparent and focused on voters and we will share our experience and expertise in running referendums when we respond to both parliaments and governments on their respective consultations."
In a press conference after announcing the consultation, Salmond said he was "sure" Robert Burns would like the fact that the referendum date was announced on Burns night, the anniversary of the Scottish poet's birth.
It came as Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont accused Salmond of being anti-English, telling the New Statesman: “What is my problem with David Cameron? He is a Tory. What is Alex Salmond’s problem with him? He’s English. I don’t mind people being nationalists. I worry when it trips over into chauvinism and I’m frustrated when it becomes a substitute for arguing about real politics.”Suggest a correction