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New dotSCOT domain to be launched on web by summer

SCOTLAND will be independent by this summer - but only virtually.

After a battle of nearly a decade-and-a-half, the country is to get its own dotSCOT domain name on the world wide web just in time for the Commonwealth Games.

The SNP-led Holyrood administration is expected to be among the first to use the new online handle in the run-up to September's referendum.

Steven Camley's cartoon

The long wait for the dotScot domain is finally over

Its current website may use both its existing name, www.scotland.gov.uk, and www.gov.scot, meaning civil servants and politicians could all have dotSCOT email addresses by the time of the vote.

A spokeswoman said: "We anticipate that t he Scottish Government will adopt a number of dotSCOT web addresses, alongside our existing domains. We're currently assessing the best ways to make use of dotSCOT."

The campaign for a dotSCOT domain name, however, long pre-dates the current Government or its big vote later this year. Business, cultural and sporting groups believe it is a long-overdue asset for marketing the Scottish brand online and worldwide.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "2014 is an exciting year for Scotland, and I'm delighted that this distinct online identity for the nation, and all who take an interest in Scotland, will become available this summer.

"The dotSCOT domain is long overdue in this digital age, and the worldwide family of Scots who have been waiting patiently since it was first proposed, will soon be able to have this marvellously expressive domain as their online identity of choice."

High-profile supporters of dotSCOT have included Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the old Scottish Football League, many of whom hope to tap in to overseas interest in Scotland, especially among the diaspora.

The new domain name has been made possible by a deal between Dot Scot Registry (DSR), a Glasgow-based not-for-profit company, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or Icann. Some had feared the name may have only been recognised next year.

Gavin McCutcheon, director of Dot Scot Registry, said he hoped DotSCOT would "become first choice for the worldwide family of Scots".

He added: "Scotland and Scottishness conveys a whole range of positive connotations, which could not really be portrayed on the web before, but with a dotSCOT domain there will be a new option anyone involved in Scottish business, arts and culture and others to identify themselves more clearly as Scottish to the online world.

"We aim to make dotSCOT domains as affordable as possible and our not-for-profit structure means we will be able to do so."

E-businesses have been lobbying for a distinct Scottish name online from around 2000, but quickly lost their initial preference, ".sc", to the Seychelles.

Catalonia, the nation within Spain facing its own independence referendum this year, won its own dotCAT internet domain name nearly a decade ago. This has supplemented rather than replaced ".es", which signifies Spain, and is widely used by those with Catalan cultural affinities way beyond the current autonomous region of Catalonia.

The dotCAT name is also used by Catalonia's pro-­independence government, the Generalitat, its biggest football team, Barcelona FC; and any online media using Catalan rather than Spanish language.

Microstates Gibraltar and Jersey and the devolved Aaland Islands of Finland have all beaten Scotland to develop their own online domain names.

Technology journalist Iain S Bruce is one of many internet experts who believe the country has taken too long to get its own domain name.

He said: "It's better late than never, but given the potential economic boost the internet offers geographically challenged ­countries like our own, it seems staggering that a top-level domain - a prerequisite of online national identity - has been so long in arriving."

Scotland is one of a wave of nations and regions, including London, Wales and Berlin, to get new "top-level" domain names approved by Icann.

The new dotSCOT deal will be announced by Icann today and the name will go on sale by the summer.

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