A new opinion poll revealed support for and against full independence virtually neck and neck among Scottish voters.
The New Statesman/ICD poll showed 44% of Scots would vote for independence in a straight Yes/No ballot, compared to 45% against. The other 11% were "don't knows".
The survey also revealed 51% of Scots would vote for full control over tax and spending – the so-called devo-max option.
The SNP welcomed the poll, with its referendum campaign manager, Angus Robertson MP, describing it as an "excellent result", adding: "Coming on the day the First Minister confirmed the question voters in Scotland will be asked on independence, this is just the beginning of the campaign and the great debate we will have across the country.
"Results like this show that independence for Scotland is achievable and, with more and more people supporting the principle that decisions about what happens in Scotland should be made by the people of Scotland, it is a very welcome result."
However, Scottish Labour questioned the credence of the poll, which surveyed 1000 people across the UK but did not reveal the number of Scots questioned.
A spokesman said: "Every mainstream poll on this issue in living memory has shown support for separation remains fairly static – at around two to one in favour of Scotland being part of the UK.
"If the SNP really thought public opinion in Scotland had violently shifted, it would call the referendum tomorrow, but the three-year delay is all just playing for time."
The findings came at the end of a historic day during which First Minister Mr Salmond unveiled the 81-page consultation document that outlines the SNP's planned roadmap to independence.
Mr Salmond unveiled the consultation paper, called Your Scotland, Your Referendum, to the Scottish Parliament early yesterday afternoon before heading to a press conference in Edinburgh Castle's Great Hall, attended by media from around the world.
The document revealed the wording of the proposed single question as: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"
It also confirmed the Scottish Government wants 16 and 17-year-olds to be allowed to vote, and stated the Electoral Commission would be asked to play a role in overseeing the ballot. But it stopped short of saying it would have overall responsibility.
The wording of the key question immediately sparked controversy.
Mr Salmond said: "We will send the proposed question or questions to the Electoral Commission for their comments, but I cannot see how there would be any serious doubt this wording matches the criteria of simplicity and clarity.
"I would be astonished and surprised if they thought it didn't match the criteria."
But pro-unionist parties claimed the question was loaded in favour of a "Yes" vote.
Labour said a similar wording produced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for the AV referendum on reforming the Westminster voting system was rejected last year by the commission, which dislikes potentially leading questions such as those beginning "Do you agree -"
Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran said: "At present, the Electoral Commission has to rule on the wording of the question on the ballot paper because it is a point of principle that it shouldn't be for politicians alone to pick.
"Alex Salmond's proposal to strip the Electoral Commission of its legal responsibility to rule on the question will fuel suspicion and is simply not acceptable.
"It is completely wrong to agree to a neutral referee but then stop it doing its most important job. Watering down the role of the watchdog is simply not democratic."
Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said it was expected that the commission would perform a "similar role as it does in any referendum or election".
Mr Salmond said the consultation proposed one simple Yes/No question on ballot papers when Scotland is asked to decide its constitutional future in the autumn of 2014.
He said an independent Scotland would remain close to the rest of the United Kingdom and the country would become a European Union state on the same terms as England.
But he said Scots will be asked their views on including a so-called devo-max option that would see Holyrood given greater powers but stop short of full independence.
He said: "We will decide our future in a vote which is beyond challenge or doubt.
"The most important decision by the people of Scotland in 300 years must be beyond reproach."
And, in a warning to Westminster, politicians he has accused of interfering, he said: "The people who live in Scotland are the best people to make decisions about their future. Of that there can be no doubt."
Mr Salmond, who chose Burns Night for the launch, also stressed that independence did not mean making an enemy of the rest of the UK.
"We offer malice towards nobody, we offer friendship towards all, particularly those other nations in these islands, but across the European continent and beyond," he added.