A Year To Go Until Scotland Decides

Scotland's First Minister and the Scottish Secretary have hailed the independence referendum as an opportunity of a lifetime on the day that marks exactly a year until the historic vote.

Speaking before a debate at the Scottish Parliament on Scotland's future, First Minister Alex Salmond said: ``Today marks one year to the biggest opportunity Scotland has ever had. Referendums like this are a once-in-a-generation event which means the vote on September 18 next year will be the opportunity of a lifetime for many people in Scotland, as we get the chance to choose our country's future. 

``Scotland can more than afford to be a successful independent country. We have enormous advantages in terms of our human and natural resources, but we need the political and economic tools to help create a wealthier and fairer society. 

``This referendum is not about any one politician or party. It is about completing Scotland's home rule journey which has been under way for more than a century.'' 

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said that in 12 months people will make a choice that ``will affect our nation's future forever''. 

He said: ``This is an absolutely defining moment and a once-in-a-lifetime choice. That's why I hope people will think carefully as they prepare for the vote. I firmly believe that Scotland will be stronger, more secure and more prosperous if we remain as part of the UK. Between now and next September I will continue to argue this case as well as providing what I believe will be robust and persuasive evidence. 

``I'm sure the year ahead will be both challenging and exciting as the arguments crystallise and people prepare to cast their vote. It will also be memorable and, above all, historic. We are all privileged to be able to play a part in it.'' 

The wider pro-independence and pro-Union movements used the landmark date to reflect on progress and restate their arguments, as they enter the final 12 months of campaigning. 

Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said he has been encouraged by recent polls and claimed the campaign is reaching more people than Better Together. ``We have greater reach than the No campaign, with our social media activity engaging substantially more people. We have more than 200 active local and sectoral groups and an average of 70 local campaign events taking place every week,'' he said. 

``Our campaign is designed to win through direct conversations, with our enthused, informed and engaged volunteers having conversations with people in their social circles. In this way we can move people up the support scale. Again, our research tells us that undecideds are more inclined towards Yes than No by a ratio of 2:1.'' 

The group most likely to say Yes is families with children, he said. 

Alistair Darling, chair of Better Together, called for the Yes campaign to provide answers about the impact of independence on areas such as jobs, pensions and public services. ``I have repeatedly challenged Alex Salmond to publicly debate these issues with me. 

However, he seems more interested in turning the debate on Scotland's future into a battle between England and Scotland than he is in providing people with details. 

I will debate him any time, anywhere,'' he said. 

``Alex Salmond will say and do anything to win the referendum. He is putting his own place in history ahead of the interests of Scotland. Every day more and more experts are lining up to expose his assertions for the fantasy that they are. 

``We have a tough fight on our hands. However, I am confident that we can use the next 12 months to win the arguments and win the referendum.''

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