FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has said that the independence referendum will take place in the autumn of 2014, with October 18 announced as “a possible date.”
Mr Salmond all but ruled out August and September, leaving “only a relatively few number of dates that would be suitable.”
The first edition of the Scottish Sun Sunday today named the date of the independence referendum as October 18 2014.
Speaking on a Clyde 2 radio phone-in this morning, Mr Salmond said: “It is a possible date but of course because we said it will be autumn 2014 and we also said that we’re considering a Saturday, as opposed to a Thursday, to increase turnout.
“But we are only a month into a three-month consultation. I think at the last check there were 2,700 responses already, so we are heading perhaps towards up to 10,000 responses to the consultation.
“Once all of these are analysed we will announce what the date will be, and not before then.”
He added: “There are arguments for a Saturday, and we put these in our consultation paper.
“Basically, there is some evidence that it increases turnout, and obviously in something as important as a referendum on the future of Scotland you want to hold it on a day where the maximum number of people are able to vote.
“The suggestion is that it increases turnout by about 4 to 5 per cent. So on that basis Saturday has to be a strong runner, but we will wait to see what the consultation says.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie earlier criticised the Scottish Government for showing “a lack of respect for the consultation process” by naming a date before they have concluded.
Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said: “The Scottish Government’s declaration of a date for the referendum shows what the rest of Scotland already knows - that they are simply stalling for time without explaining why.
“They are in real danger of falling far behind public opinion on this issue.
“Briefing out on the date looks like panic in the wake of a major company such as SSE’s concerns about investment and CBI Scotland raising issues about the length of time Scotland would have to wait for a vote under their plans.
“The polls also show a significant majority of people want to vote earlier than 2014 and there is a clear alternative. Last week I published a simple timeline showing we can hold the referendum in 2013.
“There is no reason the referendum cannot happen earlier and the Scottish Government must explain why they are making the people of Scotland wait so long.
“Their patience is already being tested and I suspect many people in Scotland will also be disappointed to see the Scottish Government’s proposed date being revealed to a newspaper before the public.”
Labour leader Johann Lamont said: “Coming just as Scotland’s second biggest company warns of the risk to investment, I do not understand the need for a three year delay.
“There is nothing that prevents the SNP holding this referendum now. We can’t afford to wait years to make this decision. Donald Dewar held a referendum within 134 days of coming to power, but it is going to take Alex Salmond seven and a half years.
“Alex Salmond is supposed to be consulting with the Scottish people about his preferred date, but seems more interested in consulting with Rupert Murdoch.”