Scotland could become an independent country on March 24 2016 if voters back leaving the UK in next year's independence referendum, the Deputy First Minister has announced.

The date is included in the Scottish Government's white paper, described as a "blueprint" for independence, which will be published on Tuesday.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it is a "landmark document" which has economic growth, jobs and fairness at its heart.

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The 670-page document runs to more than 170,000 words and will be available as a hard copy and as an e-book.

Ms Sturgeon said it will be the document that drives the independence debate, providing the positive case for a vote in favour of independence.

She said: "This guide to an independent Scotland will be the most comprehensive and detailed blueprint of its kind ever published, not just for Scotland but for any prospective independent country.

"It is a landmark document which sets out the economic, social and democratic case for independence.

"It demonstrates Scotland's financial strengths and details how we will become independent - the negotiations, preparations and agreements that will be required in the transition period from a vote for independence in September next year to our proposed Independence Day of 24th March 2016 and in time for the first elections to an independent Scottish Parliament in May of that year.

"The guide describes what a newly-independent Scotland will look like. It illustrates how the powers of independence can be used to benefit individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole - and it answers a range of detailed questions that we have been asked.

"The document contains two categories of policy choice. Firstly, the choices that we will negotiate in the transition period - as the government leading negotiations - and which will therefore provide the starting point for an independent Scotland.

"Secondly, the policy choices that we will make if this administration forms the government of an independent Scotland from May 2016. That section recognises, indeed embraces, the point that the choice of government and therefore of future policy is for the people of Scotland to make."

Ms Sturgeon said the document is designed above all for the public and urged people to read it, compare it with any alternative future for Scotland and make up their own minds.

She said: "The white paper has economic growth, jobs and fairness at its heart. The route to a successful Scotland is greater economic growth that benefits all and which supports greater participation - particularly amongst women - in the workplace and the economy as a whole.

"Ensuring that work pays, for example through a decent minimum wage, is central to our economic and social approach.

"We won't succeed and reach our full potential as long as we are locked into an unbalanced Westminster-controlled economy that disproportionately benefits one region and one section of society.

"The white paper will set out the strong economic position that an independent Scottish Government will inherit, but it will also be very clear that the key to long-term prosperity is sustainable economic growth."

An initial print run of 20,000 copies has been produced but it will be made available to everyone who requests a copy. The Scottish Government said it wants as many households in Scotland as possible to have a copy.

The independence referendum will take place on September 18 next year.

The proposed Independence Day of Thursday March 24 2016 follows the dissolution of the current Scottish Parliament, which is set to be scheduled to take place at midnight on Wednesday March 23 2016.

March 24 is also the anniversary of both the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and of the signing of the Acts of Union in 1707.

A Scotland Office spokesman said: "Naming the date of independence ahead of a referendum result would only weaken the Scottish Government's negotiating position if Scotland voted to leave the UK.

"People in Scotland still don't know the full terms the Scottish Government would try to negotiate but the 28 members of the EU, Nato and the rest of the UK would all know that for the Scottish Government the date is more important than the deal.

"We agree people should read the White Paper and the UK Government's evidence and make up their own mind on the referendum issue.

"We are confident the case for staying in the UK is far stronger than the untested, uncosted and unconvincing claims the Scottish Government have made to date."

A Better Together spokesman added: "This is the worst negotiating tactic possible. What the nationalists have done is announce to everybody who they would have to enter into talks with if we go it alone, the date where everything must be settled by. It doesn't exactly put them in a strong bargaining position."