FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has used his overall majority in the Scottish Parliament to secure a vote endorsing independence.

MSPs voted by 69 votes to 52 to back a motion supporting the nationalist cause. However, although symbolic for the SNP, it has no legal standing.

Nevertheless, Mr Salmond hailed it as a "milestone". He added: "For the first time since the beginning of the political union, the elected representatives of the people of Scotland have agreed that this nation should be an independent country."

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The SNP was backed by the two Green MSPs, Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone, and Independent Margo MacDonald for the motion which read: "The Parliament agrees that Scotland should be an independent country."

Labour, Conservatives and LibDems, arguing that it was in Scotland's best interest to remain part of the United Kingdom and that the country was "stronger together and weaker apart", were outnumbered.

Mr Salmond said: "I want Scotland to be independent not because I think that we are better than any other country but because I know we are just as good as any other country.

"As a Parliament and as a people we have shown we can make a success of running our own health service, schools, local government, police and courts and much else besides.

"If we are capable of doing all these things successfully why shouldn't we have responsibility for running our economy, our pensions and representing ourselves on the world stage?"

Mr Salmond told MSPs 15,000 people had now signed the "Yes" declaration which he helped launch last Friday, but he had to defend the campaign after opponents following it on Twitter claimed they were being misrepresented as backers.

He was questioned by Tory leader Ruth Davidson who said: "I wonder if he counts among his number my deputy leader, all the political editors in Scotland and everyone else whose Twitter picture was harvested and used in support against their wishes."

Mr Salmond told her: "We've managed to extract you all from the website. We've taken out Donald Duck, Osama Bin Laden, Johann Lamont."

Mr Salmond said in an independent Scotland Parliament would continue as it is with a single chamber with a First Minister, councils would be retained and elections held under proportional representation.

The High Court would become the Supreme Court, Scotland would be in the EU, the Queen would remain head of state and the currency would be sterling.

Labour leader Ms Lamont claimed that instead of putting forward a vision for the future, the Scottish Government would "attempt to entice us all into a communal hallucination".

She said: "Had Scotland been a separate country right now, I believe we would be looking at creating the type of union we currently enjoy, the type of social, economic and political union that has brought us 300 years of peace and stability.

"The type of union that allows us to weather the worst economic crisis of our lifetime when the banking sector collapsed."

She said only starry-eyed nationalists did not recognise the advantages of being part of the UK, such as "the advantages of an integrated economy, the ability to weather the economic storms that have devastated small countries, the clout on the international stage offered by membership of the G8 and standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies as part of the most successful military alliance in the world".

LibDem leader Willie Rennie said: "The SNP would have you believe that countries break up every other day. No modern, successful country has broken up. It may be normal to be small but it's not normal to break up a country to become small."

Though an independence supporter, Mr Harvie said the SNP had to answer questions on areas such as currency and a written constitution.

He said: "There are times when I have concern the SNP's desire not to scare the horses, not to scare anyone from voting independence, will also fail to inspire those who can be persuaded.

"Johann Lamont has been asking serious questions on the issue of currency and they're deserving of serious answers."