Scotland to hold independence referendum in 2014

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Five million Scots will vote in September next year to decide whether they will seek independence and leave the United Kingdom.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament broadcast live on Sky TV News, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said people across Scotland will vote to determine Scotland's future on Sept. 18, 2014, terming the day as "a historic day, and one on which this ancient nation decides its place in the world."

"Sept. 18, 2014 can be a date which becomes etched in our nation's story as the day Scotland took a decisive step forward to a better, fairer future." added the Scottish First Minister.

Voters would be asked the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?"with the choice of answers of "Yes/No", which was recommended by the Electoral Commission and accepted by the Scottish government, according to Salmond.

The referendum will be preceded by a 16-week formal campaign period, during which limits will apply to the amount of money any registered participant may spend on campaigning, aimed at ensuring a level playing field for both sides of the debate, according to the published Referendum Bill.

The referendum will be overseen by the independent Electoral Commission, responsible for regulating the campaign rules, informing the public about the referendum and reporting to the Scottish Parliament on the conduct and administration of the referendum, it noted.

Moreover, the referendum will be conducted under the direction of a Chief Counting Officer responsible for appointing local Counting Officers to run the poll in local areas, and the Chief Counting Officer will be the convener of Electoral Management Board for Scotland, according to the bill introduced to the parliament.

Details of who can vote in the referendum are included in the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill published on March 12 after it was introduced to the Scottish Parliament to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds.

On the costs of running and regulating the referendum, funding a mailshot for each of the designated organizations and running public awareness campaigns, they are separately listed as 8.6 million pounds (about 13 million U.S. dollars) for running the referendum, 2.4 million pounds to pay for a free mailshot for the two campaign organizations of Yes and No, which was included as part of the Edinburgh Agreement on the independence Referendum at the request of the British government,

Another 2.3 million pounds is set for the Electoral Commission providing regulation and oversight of the referendum, while the Scottish Government has accepted the Commission's recommendation that 1.8 million pounds should be used for public awareness campaigns.

The Scottish Parliament has been granted the powers to organize the referendum and both the British and Scottish governments have agreed they will respect the result.

According to poll results of Scottish adults on Feb. 3, about 33 percent chose to vote "Yes", 47 percent for "No", while another 20 percent said "Don't know", said SKY TV News.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Salmond signed the Edinburgh Agreement in October 2012, allowing Scotland to hold an independence referendum in autumn 2014.

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