DEPUTY First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has rounded off 2012 by calling for a "positive" debate on independence from all sides.

She asked for all those speaking about the country's constitutional future to do so in a positive way that will encourage people to make an informed choice in the autumn 2014 referendum.

The minister, who is taking the lead on independence for the SNP, confirmed the next steps in the referendum process. These will include the introduction of legislation for debate in the Scottish Parliament on Scotland's referendum, building up to the publication of a white paper in November.

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Sturgeon said: "In autumn 2014, Scotland will make the biggest decision on its constitutional future in 300 years.

"Now that the legal basis of the referendum has been confirmed through the historic Edinburgh Agreement, the debate that follows on the substance of the argument must be a positive one – the people of Scotland deserve no less.

"I want to see – on both sides of the debate, and whatever we think Scotland's constitutional future should be – everyone involved engaging in a positive way that encourages the people of Scotland to turn out and make an informed choice on their future.

"The debate we will have over the next two years must be about how we can achieve the economic growth and social justice that the Scottish people would like in their country. I believe only the powers we will get through independence offer us the tools we need to build the country we want.

"Early in the new year, I will introduce legislation for consideration by the Scottish Parliament, both on the main referendum bill that will set out how Scotland's referendum will be run, and the bill that will allow the Parliament to extend the vote to all 16 and 17-year-olds.

"This will truly be a referendum designed and delivered by the Scottish Parliament."