Scotland sets out plan to break with Britain

Scotland sets out plan to break with Britain
Pro-independence supporters gathering for a rally in Edinburgh on Sept 21. Polls, however, show that most Scots are against the split.

SCOTLAND could be independent on March 24, 2016, if voters back leaving Britain in a referendum next year.

The date is included in a Scottish government policy paper, described as a "blueprint" for independence, the details of which were published on Tuesday.

Unveiling the 670-page white paper, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said in Glasgow that an independent Scotland would keep the British pound and remain in the European Union. But it would have its own military force and collect its own taxes.

"Scotland's future is now in Scotland's hands," he said at the release of the document, aimed at persuading Scots they should vote on Sept 18 next year to end their 306-year union with England.

"We know we have the people, the skills, and resources to make Scotland a more successful country," said Mr Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party and the head of Scotland's autonomous government.

He gave the assurance there would be no need to raise taxes and that Scotland's oil and gas reserves would prop up the economy if it broke away.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon further described the document as "the most comprehensive and detailed blueprint ever drawn up for a prospective independent country".

British Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government is campaigning to keep the union intact. The opposition Labour Party is also against a split-up.

Mr Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary of the British Treasury, has demanded clearer answers on how the Scottish government plans to "balance the books in an independent Scotland".

The latest opinion polls conducted by The Scotsman, the leading local daily, indicate that only 29 per cent of Scottish voters back independence. Still, the Scottish National Party is undeterred.

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