By Tom Gordon, Political Editor.There are two clear-cut options which will definitely appear on the referendum ballot paper, but some are arguing for at least one more - a form of increased devolution, named either Devo Max or Devo Plus.
Below, we outline the contrasting arguments for Scotland's becoming independent, or remaining in the UK, and examine the cases for Devo Max/Plus.
The SNP position is that independence is the natural state of nations, with around 200 countries currently running their own domestic and international affairs to prove it. However under Alex Salmond, the specifics of Scottish independence have become something of a moveable feast. The SNP has abandoned the Republicanism and early support for the Euro which once implied a radical break with the past, and now stresses continuity, promising to keep the monarch and the currency in a broader "social union" with the rest of the UK.
The economy is central to the modern SNP pitch. The party argues independence would bring full control over tax and spending powers, as well as a geographic share (around 90%) of North Sea oil revenue to Holyrood, which could then be used to help create jobs, sustain public services, and tailor policies to Scottish needs. Alongside such powers would come a share of the UK’s national debt, perhaps £100bn, although the SNP say the resulting deficit should be relatively smaller than the UK’s on current form.
Holyrood would also determine policy on defence, foreign affairs, immigration, broadcasting, welfare and energy, perhaps including a Scottish oil fund, finances permitting.
Beside the SNP, independence is backed by the Greens and Scottish Socialists. Labour, the Tories and LibDems say it would wreck the most successful political, economic and social union the world has ever known
The United Kingdom has been in its current form for less than a century. After England absorbed Wales in the mid-1500s, Scotland joined into an incorporating political union with its southern neighbour in 1707, followed by Ireland in 1800. Civil war in the latter led to the creation of Northern Ireland - and the current UK - in 1922.
Like the definition of independence, the workings of the Union have become more fluid of late, as devolution has shifted the political balance between Edinburgh and London. The Scotland Act of 1998 gave Holyrood control over health, education, justice and the environment, as well as marginal income tax powers. However more than 90% of Holyrood’s budget still comes in a block grant from the Treasury.
To increase Holyrood’s accountability, the current Scotland Bill will greatly extend income tax powers and abolish stamp duty and landfill tax so Holyrood can define homegrown replacements. Powers to set speed and drink driving limits will also come north. However, voters won’t see the changes until after the 2014 independence referendum. If the referendum returns a No vote, David Cameron has said he is open to devolving more powers, but he has so far been silent on which.
The SNP says the Union - even with the Scotland Bill - hamstrings the country’s potential by denying it economic flexibility and imposing policies largely designed for England. Labour, the LibDems and Tories say the Union is an enduring testament to cooperation in war and peace, and a bulwark against economic uncertainty.
The cases for Devo Max and Devo Plus