Dates set for devolution polls

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The battle for the political futures of Scotland and Wales was joined yesterday with the announcement of the dates for the devolution referendums.

The Scottish vote will be held on 11 September - the 700th anniversary of William Wallace's victory over the English at Stirling Bridge. The Welsh referendum will be a week later on 18 September.

Michael Ancram, the Tory Constitutional spokesman, immediately criticised the choice of dates. "What has taken the Labour Party 18 years to work out, they are expecting the Scottish people to work out in under two months," he said. The Government suffered an unexpected defeat in the Lords two weeks ago when peers voted to hold the referendums on the same day. But that defeat is expected to be overturned when the Bill comes back to the Commons.