Scotland politics

Proposed date for Scottish independence named

British and Scottish flags
Image caption The proposed date of independence is included in the White Paper

Scotland could be independent on 24 March, 2016, if voters back leaving the UK in the independence referendum, the Deputy First Minister has announced.

The date is included in the Scottish government's White Paper, described as a "blueprint" for independence.

Nicola Sturgeon said it was a "landmark document" which had economic growth, jobs and fairness at its heart.

The Scotland Office said naming a date weakened the government's negotiating position in the event of a yes vote.

The Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said the vote posed "a very real danger to the future of the United Kingdom".

Ms Sturgeon said the White Paper, which will be published on Tuesday, would drive the independence debate.

"This guide to an independent Scotland will be the most comprehensive and detailed blueprint of its kind ever published, not just for Scotland but for any prospective independent country," she said.

"It is a landmark document which sets out the economic, social and democratic case for independence."

'Punch and Judy'

Ms Sturgeon said the 670-page document was designed, above all, for the public and urged people to read it, compare it with any alternative future for Scotland and make up their own minds.

An initial print run of 20,000 copies has been produced but it will be made available to everyone who requests a copy.

The independence referendum will take place on 18 September next year, and the proposed Independence Day of Thursday 24 March, 2016, follows the dissolution of the current Scottish Parliament, which is set to be scheduled to take place at midnight on Wednesday 23 March, 2016.

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Media captionVoters have been speaking about what they want from the white paper

March 24 is also the anniversary of the Union of the Crowns in 1603.

A Scotland Office spokesman said: "Naming the date of independence ahead of a referendum result would only weaken the Scottish government's negotiating position if Scotland voted to leave the UK.

"People in Scotland still don't know the full terms the Scottish government would try to negotiate but the 28 members of the EU, Nato and the rest of the UK would all know that for the Scottish government the date is more important than the deal.

"We agree people should read the White Paper and the UK government's evidence and make up their own mind on the referendum issue."

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, the Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael argued that the union was in the interests of all UK voters.

He said: "I think there are people all over the country who kind of take the existence of the United Kingdom for granted.

"What we've got to get across is that this is a very real danger to the future of the United Kingdom and that in fact the United Kingdom is good, not just for Scots.

"It's good for people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well. This should not just be allowed to become some sort of Punch and Judy match between Edinburgh and London."