Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has announced that Scotland's referendum on independence will take place in the Autumn of 2014.
There will be a period of consultation to establish both the process and the nature of the question(s) in the referendum.
The announcement this evening (10 January 2012) was made shortly after a statement on the issue by Westminster Scotland Minister Michael Moore in London.
Between 28 per cent and 38 per cent of people in Scotland currently favour full Scottish nationhood.
Those arguing in favour of an end to Scotland's dependent status within the current British union, including the SNP, Scottish Greens and others on the independent left, believe that the mood of the country is swinging in their favour.
The confused attempts of UK Prime Minister David Cameron to dictate terms of the referendum have been seen by many commentators as a gaffe further illustrating how out of touch he is with the mood in Scotland.
At present there is just one Scottish Tory MP in Westminster, and the Liberal Democrats have been plummeting in the polls. The Labour Party has also been licking its wounds after its election mauling at the hands of the SNP.
The Westminster government this afternoon tried and failed to wrest control of the referendum agenda by offering the Scottish Government extended UK constitutional powers to hold a binding vote, in exchange for a range of limitations - including the exclusion of a third 'devolution max' question on the ballot paper.
But Mr Salmond immediately rebuffed these attempts at "interference", and set out a timetable for a vote which will be open to legal challenge, but which, he argues, is about recognising the right of the Scottish people to choose the conditions of the vote.
The unionist parties are arguing that independence is about power for the SNP, but privately acknowledge that a large number of non-nationalists want to see greater or complete autonomy for a country which consistently votes against Conservative policies but has to live with them because of voters in England.
Supporters argue that independence is not about 'going it alone', but giving Scotland the capacity to shape its own policies and alliances with other British nations, Nordic allies, Europe and the world.
Commenting earlier on the Westminster intervention yesterday, Mr Salmond said: “The UK Government is in a state of total confusion. Overnight, yesterday’s 18-month sunset clause had disappeared into the sunset; the coalition is riven with tensions; and Westminster is backtracking in the face of the massive thumbs down from opinion in Scotland to Tory interference in the Scottish democratic process."
He continued: “The issue is not Section 30 of the Scotland Act. The issue is the entirely unacceptable Tory attempt to impose London strings on Scotland’s referendum, from a Westminster government with absolutely no mandate for these matters.
“In stark contrast to Westminster’s disarray, the Scottish Government will continue with the orderly process of bringing forward the referendum in the second half of this parliament. And this afternoon the Cabinet will put the final touches to a consultation document setting out the Scottish Government’s detailed proposals for the referendum, which will be published later this month,” concluded the First Minister.