Scottish newspaper declares support for independence

LONDON - Scotland's Sunday Herald became the first British newspaper to openly support Scottish independence on Sunday, a fillip for nationalists ahead of a Sept. 18 referendum.

All Scottish residents aged 16 and over will be able to vote on whether to end the country's 307 year-old union with England and leave the United Kingdom. If a majority vote in favour, Scotland will become an independent country on March 24, 2016.

The Glasgow-based paper, which has a circulation of 24,000 per issue, declared its editorial stance with a bold front page carrying the words "Sunday Herald says Yes" and incorporating Scotland's national floral emblem, a purple thistle.

"Having considered the arguments, the Sunday Herald sincerely and emphatically believes that the best outcome is a vote for independence," the paper said in an article announcing its decision. "We view the referendum not as a choice between the status quo and an uncertain future, but as between a bankrupt political structure and the chance to remake our society in a more equal, inclusive, open and just way."

In recent weeks, a range of opinion polls have shown the gap closing between independence supporters and the campaign opposing a split, which is being orchestrated from London by politicians from Britain's three main parties.

The paper said it believed an independent Scotland was likely to agree a currency union with the UK, despite the British government's insistence that such a union is not on offer. It also said it was confident Scotland would be a member of the European Union.