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2014 is the opportunity of a lifetime for country, says Salmond

THE historic referendum vote next September and the chance for Scotland to become an independent country is an "opportunity of a lifetime", Alex Salmond insists today in his New Year's Message.

The First Minister said tomorrow would mark the start of a "truly amazing year" when the world's eyes would be upon Scotland with not only the Year of Homecoming and the Commonwealth Games but also the Ryder Cup and, of course, the referendum vote.

"On September 18, we will decide whether to become an independent country; that's the opportunity of a lifetime," declared Mr Salmond.

"It's a precious thing; to be able to debate and decide our own future through a civic and democratic process.

"Let's ensure that the debate over the next nine months is a constructive one; where we respect each other's views regardless of how passionately we hold our own."

In his message, filmed at the National Library of Scotland, he also urged Scots to ensure they took the chance to think about the sort of country they wanted Scotland to become.

"Let's not wake up on the morning of September 19 next year and think to ourselves what might have been. Let's wake up on that morning filled with hope and expectation; ready to build a just and prosperous nation."

Mr Salmond said there were many reasons for independence but that at the heart of that vision was one fundamental point: that the best people to take decisions about Scotland's future must be the people who have lived and worked in Scotland.

Willie Rennie, the Scottish LibDem leader, said he was hopeful 2014 would be a good year economically, saying he was "also confident we'll reaffirm Scotland's place in the United Kingdom family of nations".

Johann Lamont, the Scottish Labour leader, stressed how Glasgow 2014 was an opportunity to "showcase a different kind of city and a different kind of Scotland; one that is modern, outward-looking and confident".

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Local government

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