THE road to the Scottish independence referendum passes another milestone today with six months to go before Scots go to the polls.
Senior politicians and campaigners from both sides of the debate will hold a series of events and debates to look ahead to 18 September.
Nationalists say the momentum is with the Yes campaign with half a year to go, but unionists have warned that there will be no going back if Scotland crosses the line to independence.
Independence is either “an opportunity to build a better society”, or “a gamble” over currency, jobs, pensions and the economy, according to the opposing campaigns.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out six “compelling reasons” in favour of independence to mark the milestone.
She argues an independent Scotland would create more jobs, spend tax revenues on “Scotland’s priorities”, protect public services, “guarantee we get governments we vote for”, set up an oil fund and have a retirement age in line with Scotland’s circumstances.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The referendum is a choice between taking Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands or leaving our future in the hands of an out-of-touch Westminster establishment.
“The No campaign call themselves Project Fear but we have seen a move to Project Threat in recent days with increasingly over-the-top comments.
“So it’s no wonder that support for Yes continues to advance in the polls while the No campaign has stalled - with a swing of only around 5 per cent now needed to secure a Yes vote in September.”
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont will unveil the findings of her Devolution Commission in Edinburgh this morning, promising “a comprehensive package of devolution” if Scotland votes no.
Former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling said his Better Together campaign offers a “positive vision” for staying the UK, backed by warnings of the “huge risks” that independence would bring.
“What the last few weeks have shown is that leaving the UK would create huge risks and cost jobs in Scotland,” he said.
“On what would replace the Pound, how our pensions would be paid and what would happen to our membership of the EU, leaving the UK would be a big leap in the dark.
“This is what Scotland’s largest employers are saying. From Standard Life to Shell, and from RBS to the shipyard owners on the Clyde, walking away from the UK means people in Scotland would lose their job. That’s the price of independence. It’s a risk that we simply don’t have to take.”
Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said: “This is a grass-roots campaign, and we know we will win it street by street and conversation by conversation.
“It’s important to keep focused on the big picture in this independence debate, to see the unique opportunity we have to build a better society.
“The Yes Scotland message is simple. On 18 September, don’t hand power back to the discredited Westminster elite. Vote Yes to put Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands.”
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “Voters need to remember that a referendum is not like an election. You cannot change your mind in five years’ time if you do not like the choice you make.
“Once the union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland has been unpicked there will be no going back.
“It’s important to realise that a vote for independence is a gamble - there are simply too many unanswered questions, particularly regarding currency, pensions and the economy.
“Why would anyone want to leave a successful union - which has helped Scotland prosper for generations - for such an uncertain future?”
Radical independence campaigners will take to the streets of Edinburgh to talk to voters about their vision of an independent socialist Scotland.
Edinburgh branch secretary Pat Smith said: “In communities like Dumbiedykes many people are realising that, in some cases for the first time in their lives, September’s referendum gives them something worth voting for.
“On Tuesday we’ll be taking our positive message to people in the heart of the capital that another Scotland is possible and that their votes are crucial to making that happen.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The fundamental choice facing people this coming September has crystallised. There is a growing consensus around building a stronger Scotland within the UK.
“A vote to remain in the UK will offer Scotland a golden opportunity to refine our many unions with the UK family of nations.
“This stands in stark contrast with the nationalists plans which would have us leave those unions before seeking to rejoin them on terms which would inevitably be poorer to Scotland.”
Energy Secretary Ed Davey will give a speech at the Scottish Renewables Annual Conference in Edinburgh, insisting Scotland’s renewable energy industry benefits from the integrated market of the UK.
Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney will represent the Scottish Government in a BBC referendum debate from Kirkcaldy tonight.