Martin Hannan: Here's a date for your diary

Put this month in your diary. The referendum on independence for Scotland will take place in October, 2015. I personally would prefer it to happen on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. The historians among you will realise why. Yet for the very reason that the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn will take place in 2014, the referendum should not happen in that year.

We have to get away from history. It is at once our reason for existence and the bind that could throttle us.

I sometimes despair that the cause of independence is being brought low by Braveheartery. The SNP, my party, is chock full of decent people who simply want to live in a better independent nation, but unfortunately there is a very small minority of zealots among nationalists who are anti-English and frankly consumed by hatred - Scottish bigots and chauvinists in the original sense of that word.

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Most of these knuckle-draggers are not in the SNP, and wouldn't be allowed in, but they spew their anonymous and unwanted bile on websites and in doing so damage the cause of independence because who would want to live in a country which would encourage their insane prattlings?

Just look at what some idiots say about the Scottish media and certain journalists. The ignorance of how the press works and what journalists actually do is widespread, leading to nasty and often personal abuse.

Honestly, the level of internet and indeed public debate on the Scottish media and politics needs to rise above the gutter - and people actually putting their own names to their views rather than being anonymous cowards would be a good start.

Let's get back to the referendum. The reasons for holding the referendum in the latter half of 2015 are simple. The economy must recover, and the SNP Government must be given the chance to show how much better things could be after independence. Organising the referendum and campaigns will take years. So be it. After 300 years, another year or two doesn't matter - what matters is getting the referendum correct.

The referendum must also be legitimated and authoritative. The next UK general election will take place in May, 2015. All major parties must agree that the referendum is binding. If they don't, they can kiss goodbye to Scottish votes.

Even if the SNP win a majority of Scottish seats in the UK Parliament, then a referendum will still be necessary, because the Scottish people must be asked the question aside from party interests.

There can be only one referendum, and it will be a generational issue. The question cannot be asked of the Scottish people every other week, but by 2015, Scotland will have had 16 years to try devolved government, and it seems correct to ask if the people wish to try independence.

How to organise it? There must be a recognised Yes campaign, led by the Scottish Government, for it has the mandate to do so, and a recognised No campaign. The committees and leaders running both should be fully identified. Alex Salmond must lead the Yes campaign. The No campaign will undoubtedly have no shortage of volunteers to lead the anti-independence faction. John Reid? David Steel?

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The sources of income for both campaigns must be stated openly.

Strict limits must be set on expenditure. Scotland's independence must not be bought, nor must the status quo be preserved by multinational interests stumping up cash for the unionists.

Public money should be given to both to ensure proper organisation.

Only those people qualified to vote in Scotland should get a ballot paper.

The Scottish Government must state what independence means and what it is prepared to do. I'd like to make the case for a five-point plan: full independence with all that entails; Scotland taking its place in Europe and the UN; a new cooperative relationship with the other nations of the UK; the Queen to remain Scotland's head of state; a new Scottish Government to be elected in 2016.

Forget options, keep it logical and simple. One question only: "Do you agree with the proposals of the Scottish Government regarding independence for Scotland?" If more than 50 per cent vote yes, we are independent that day. The Scottish and Westminster governments would then agree a formal timetable for separation and for working out the new relationships within the UK. If it's a No vote, the SNP must start building towards another referendum in ten to 15 years' time.

This will be the most important issue our country will face in the next few years. I believe that without anger, without violence, without fear, without hatred, but with passion, with confidence in ourselves and each other, with ambition for ourselves and our children, and with hope for a new Scotland, most of us will write an "X" into the yes boxes and a wonderful if daunting future will follow.

For it will not be easy, sometimes it will be difficult beyond belief, but it will be our future, chosen by us.

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In the words of James Maxton, we will rise up and look the world in the eye: "This is our land, this is our Scotland, these are our people, these are our men, our works, our women and children: can you beat it?"