Bands, singers, musicians and artists performing at this year's Celtic Connections festival are to be asked to vote in an informal poll on Scottish independence.

The festival, beginning this week with a sold-out opening concert featuring Nicola Benedetti, Julie Fowlis, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, is tacking the political debate of the year with a debate on the effect of possible independence on Scotland's culture in its first weekend.

Donald Shaw, the artistic director of the festival, as well as founder of Capercailie, said that the independence debate was not something the festival, which runs over 18 nights from January 16, will "shy away from".

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A "big book" will record the views on Scottish independence - Yes, No, undecided or otherwise - from up to 2100 performers and its conclusions will be revealed before the end of the festival.

On Saturday at the CCA venue in Glasgow, the festival will stage "If the Song Changes' - a Talk on the Impact of Independence for Scotland on its Culture" from 1pm, which will include Lesley Riddoch, the Icelandic singer-songwriter Benni Hemm Hemm, the Québécois musician Yves Lambert and "some weel-kent faces from the music scene".

The festival will include concerts at the new SSE Hydro venue in Glasgow, and performances by Del Amitri, Imelda May, Dick Gaughan, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Capercaillie, Bobby Womack, Bill Callahan and Julie Fowlis and Mogwai among many others.

One strand of the festival, which will have 300 shows, focuses on Robert Burns and the influence the poet and songwriter had in Commonwealth countries.

Mr Shaw, who said he is in favour of Scottish independence, said: "I really think there is an appetite for discussion and there has always been a tradition in Glasgow of people speaking out, particularly politically in folk music, there is that tradition of the city expressing itself in that way. I don't think we should, as a festival, shy away from debating it and in fact that's a good thing."

Mr Shaw said that there needs to be a debate within folk and traditional music about the referendum and that not necessarily every band and performer in the festival would lean to the 'Yes' side of the debate.

"There is a strong tradition of being on the Left, and that being represented in Labour, and that is complicating the debate for many," he said.

"I think many are in favour of an independent Scotland but they feel guilty of speaking about it because they come from a background of Labour and they are not the party of independence. I think it will be through the music that they can express what they feel."

Mr Shaw said that the festival was hitting its targets on ticket sales, and that the opening concert had sold out and other gigs were selling well.

The Bobby Womack and Mogwai shows are selling well, as is the Del Amitri show.

Mr Shaw said there had been healthy sales for the Far Far From Ypres - WWI Scottish Songs concert on January 17. This event will feature Scottish songs, stories and poetry from the conflict.