Voters in Scotland will decide on Sept. 18, 2014, whether to pursue independence after First Minister Alex Salmond set the date for a referendum he hopes will spell the end of the United Kingdom.
“The choice becomes clear with each passing day,” Salmond, 58, said today in the Scottish Parliament. He had previously said the vote would take place in the fall of next year. “I believe the people of Scotland will vote yes to create a better country than we have now.”
The question “Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No” was agreed on in January. The Scottish government said earlier this month it will extend the voting age for the referendum to include 16 and 17 year-olds.
The date gives Salmond 547 days to convince a population that polls show hasn’t embraced the prospect of independence in the way it backed his Scottish National Party, which has a majority in the Edinburgh legislature. The SNP argues that separation would allow Scotland to become a more prosperous country backed by North Sea oil revenue, while keeping the pound and the Bank of England as lender of last resort.
Opponents of independence, who include U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, say Scotland should stay part of the union to safeguard its economy and finances. The “Better Together” campaign is being led by Labour’s Alistair Darling, chancellor of the exchequer in the previous government.
A survey by TNS BRMB published on March 13 found 52 percent of the 1,001 respondents would vote against independence with 33 percent in favor. It didn’t give a margin of error.