Scotland would formally break away from the UK in March 2016 if next year’s referendum results in a vote in favour of independence, under a timetable drawn up by the Scottish Government.
The first elections to an independent Edinburgh parliament would take place two months later. The referendum is due to take place in autumn 2014, although the precise date has not been fixed. Recent surveys suggest support for independence is dropping in Scotland.
Following a “Yes” vote, less than 18 months would be allocated for agreeing the terms of Scotland’s departure from the UK. Westminster would have to legislate to scrap the key element of the 1707 Treaty of Union and to acknowledge the end of its sovereignty over Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, said the plans represented “a clear road map” for a move to becoming “a nation in which the powers of our national Parliament are complete and in which the people are sovereign”.
Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, said: “They are devoting their energy to the picture frame when they don’t have a painting to put in it.
“We haven’t even got a date for the referendum,” he added “let alone any detail on what independence would mean for people in areas like the economy, welfare, energy and financial services.”