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Independence is 'common sense'
Scottish independence is a "common sense position" that will be claimed by voters in the referendum next year, First Minister Alex Salmond has declared.
The Scottish Government leader, speaking in a debate exactly one year from the historic ballot, said independence is the best route to a more prosperous country.
His comments came on the day a series of opinion polls - including a mock referendum among thousands of school pupils - pointed towards a No vote next September. One of Mr Salmond's former special advisers also weighed in to criticise the referendum campaigns as a "tedious parade" of Union flags versus Scottish saltires.
Mr Salmond, leading a debate at Holyrood on Scotland's future, said: "This Government's argument - our most important contention - is that the people who live and work in Scotland are the people who are most likely to make the right choices for Scotland.
"It is not an argument that is subject to statistical manipulation, it is not an argument for a day's headlines, it is not an argument born of fear. It is a common sense position based on experience. We have been on a constitutional journey in Scotland for more than a century. It has taken many forms as progressively we have moved forward as a country."
A Yes vote in September next year is an extension of steps towards more devolved power at Holyrood, he suggested.
"Twice before the matter has been put to a referendum and twice the people have voted in favour - once narrowly and once decisively," he said. "The essence of that assent has been based on people expressing confidence on the ability of this ancient nation to take decisions for itself. That is why independence is the best route to becoming a more prosperous country but also a more just society. And that is why - exactly a year from today - the people of Scotland will claim that opportunity with both hands."
Despite his optimistic tone, a series of polls suggested the Yes camp has work to do, including among younger people. MSPs have already agreed to lower the voting age limit to 16 for the referendum on September 18 next year. Around 11,500 pupils in Aberdeenshire voted in a project involving 17 secondary and four special needs schools. Just under 75% voted No when asked the official question: Should Scotland be an independent country? Around 24.5% voted Yes, with 88 spoiled ballots.
Meanwhile, three formal polls put support for the Union between 52% and 59%, while support for independence was between 32% and 27%. A further poll suggested that 45% of people think the economy would be worse if Scotland was independent, 23% think it would be better, 17% do not know and 15% think it would be the same.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, responding to Mr Salmond at Holyrood, said a No vote next year would allow politicians to "start dealing with the real challenges of life in modern Scotland". She said: "Let's make the case, stand up for the United Kingdom, refresh the opportunity to defeat nationalism, do the real job of politics, make and win the political case for the real change we need to make our society stronger and fairer. Not the tired and tedious, not the old songs, but honesty openness and coming together to deal with the real experience of Scots across this country."