'Independence day' planned in 2016

Preparations for Scotland's "independence day" have been published with more than a year to go before the referendum.

A Scottish Government paper, with a foreword from Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, outlines what she hopes will be a smooth transition in March 2016 followed by elections to an independent parliament in May.

The paper sets out plans for a written constitution, to be devised by the first parliament and the public, which could outlaw "weapons of mass destruction" in Scotland. It also describes the constitutional platform for independence, drawing on the "spirit" of the Edinburgh Agreement between Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond on the legal staging of the referendum.

Political parties and representatives of "civic Scotland" would be invited to join the Scottish Government in negotiating a settlement.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Our proposals, set out today, would see this platform put in place immediately prior to the Scottish Parliament elections, to provide the newly elected Scottish Government with the full range of powers it needs to develop the country.

"Today's paper provides the people of Scotland with a clear road map as to how Scotland would make the journey from a devolved system of government with the levers of power retained at Westminster to a nation in which the powers of our national Parliament are complete and in which the people are sovereign."

Scottish politicians agreed last week on the wording of the referendum question following advice from the Electoral Commission. The question will be: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

The date for the referendum has not been confirmed but is likely to be held in autumn 2014. In Scotland, assuming a Yes vote, independence day would be in March 2016 just before the start of the first general election campaign.

During the transition, negotiations would also be held on Scotland's place in the European Union, which Scottish National Party ministers hope will continue. Negotiations with international organisations will take place during the same time. Talks between the Scottish and British Governments will need to be held swiftly, the paper adds.

"Both Governments have a duty, in advance of the referendum, to engage in preparatory discussions to exchange the factual information that will be required to underpin the post-referendum negotiations and develop an understanding of the issues that will require to be agreed after a 'Yes' vote and the approaches that will be taken to concluding those agreements," it continues.