Salmond said this would be the day "we take responsibility for our country" and "stand on our own two feet".
There had been speculation over whether it could coincide with significant events such as the Commonwealth games or the anniversary of Bannockburn when patriotism would be high, but the date does not have any particular resonance.
Mr Salmond said that in the ballot the people of Scotland would have a choice.
"Next year the choice facing the people is one of two futures. A No vote means a future of governments we didn't vote for, imposing cuts and policies we didn't support.
"A Yes vote means a future where we can be absolutely certain, 100% certain, that the people of Scotland will get the government they vote for," he said.
"I am honoured to announce that on Thursday September 18 2014 we will hold Scotland's referendum - a historic day when the people will decide Scotland's future."
Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, took her turn to ask questions on starting with a jibe.
Lamont said: "If the hand of history is on Salmond's shoulder, I wish it would give him a shove and tell him to get on with it."
She added: "This should be the day when the FM breaks the habit of a lifetime and starts answering questions.
"What's the plan, Alec?"
"This is a fair, democratic test of the people of Scotland," said Salmond.
The Scottish parliament also published its draft referendum bill, the legislation needed to hold the crucial vote and "the most important to be introduced at Holyrood", according to Salmond.
Scottish deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, told the BBC: "Everybody in Scotland, no matter what side of the debate they are on, will recognise this as a key milestone on the road to the referendum.
"The day of the referendum will be confirmed, when we can decide to take our own future into our own hands to vote for independence and the powers we need to build a fairer, more prosperous country that we all want to see."
Speaking to Daily Politics she said that whatever date is chosen ''the sun will be definitely shining''.
There has also been much deliberation over recent months the phrasing of the question used in the referendum.
After accusations that Salmond was trying to introduce loaded terms a simple "Should Scotland become an independent country?" will be used.
The issue of independence has consumed Scottish politics since the Scottish National Party (SNP) took power almost two years ago.
Lamont, has accused Salmond in the past of being "dishonest" about independence at the expense of "every Scottish family".
In Westminster, David Cameron has staunchly defended the union saying Scotland would be "better off in Britain".
Vital questions still remain on the technicalities of an independent Scotland.
Another major continuing issue is an independent Scotland's relationship with international institutions such as the EU.