26/02/2012 01:41 GMT | Updated 26/02/2012 06:17 GMT

Scottish Independence Referendum Date Claimed By Sun On Sunday As October 18th 2014

The first edition of the Scottish Sun Sunday has claimed to name the date of the independence referendum.

The headline reads 'Day of destiny' with Saturday October 18th 2014 named as the date the referendum is to be held.

The revelation will irritate the government in Westminster, which believes the poll should be held in September 2013 - the earliest it believes the preparations for the referendum could be completed.

In the front page story a government source is quoted: "This date is being lined up as the day people will get the chance to vote for independence and equality for Scotland."

The Scottish Government said the date was a "possibility" after already revealing it was planning for a referendum in the autumn of 2014.

A government spokesman said: "This date is of course a possibility, but we are in the process of a consultation on the independence referendum - which has already generated more than 2,500 responses. We continue to encourage the public to respond which they can do at www.ScotReferendum.com.

"Once we have completed that process and listened to people's views we will take forward plans for a referendum in autumn 2014."

Earlier this week the newspaper's owner Rupert Murdoch appeared to hint at support for Scottish independence on the social network service Twitter.

The tycoon, head of News Corporation, tweeted: "Let Scotland go and compete. Everyone would win."

It follows a tweet last Saturday in which he said: "Alex Salmond clearly most brilliant politician in U.K. Gave Cameron back of his hand this week. Loved by Scots."

News Corporation is parent company of News International, which runs The Sun and The Times newspapers.

The Sun newspaper, owned by News International, switched from outright opposition to the SNP before the 2007 election to support for the party at the election last May.

First Minister Alex Salmond spoke with Mr Murdoch this week.

A spokesman for the First Minister said Mr Salmond called Mr Murdoch to discuss his new newspaper, The Sun on Sunday, and said they also talked about the tweet.

Mr Salmond said: "It was an interesting eight words: a textbook example of how to deploy a tweet and cause a great stir.

"We are in a debate in Scotland and internationally about Scotland's future, and I welcome all contributions to the debate, including Mr Murdoch's."

Last August the Scottish Government published letters between Mr Salmond and Mr Murdoch, which show attempts to bring Mr Murdoch to Scotland as the guest of honour at the Gathering, a cultural celebration intended as the centrepiece of the Year of Homecoming.

The First Minister suggested it would be a great spectacle for coverage by Sky television.

An invitation was also extended to Mr Murdoch for him to join Mr Salmond at a golf event in Kentucky in the US.

In another letter, Mr Salmond offered the tycoon tickets for a performance of the Black Watch play in Brooklyn, New York.

The letters came with a list of dates and names covering meetings held with editors, journalists and other executives stretching back to June 2007, shortly after the SNP first took office.

Mr Murdoch arrived in the UK last week and supervised production production of the new Sunday tabloid.