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The West Lothian Q&A: Bathgate is first venue for iScotland public meeting

Alex Salmond has announced he will take his cabinet to Bathgate for the first in a series of special meetings where people can question SNP ministers on their independence plans.

The First Minister and his team will meet in the West Lothian town on Tuesday, January 28.

Mr Salmond said the referendum was the "chance of a lifetime" and that he wanted as many Scots as possible to get the chance to have their questions answered.

He said the meeting would be the start of "an exciting series of Scotland-wide events" in the run-up to the vote, which will be held on September 18 this year.

The cabinet has already been questioned on the plans set out in Scotland's Future - the white paper on independence - by more than 300 representatives from civic Scotland.

But ministers say they are also keen to hear from the public and plan to announce the details of more public meetings in the future.

The First Minister said: "This visit to Bathgate marks the Cabinet's first meeting outside of Edinburgh in 2014 and kicks off an exciting series of Scotland-wide events which will engage with the public this year.

"Taking the referendum conversation out to communities in all corners of the country provides an opportunity for us to meet people from a wide range of backgrounds and hear their views on independence as well as listening to their local questions."

He added: "Over the next nine months the people of Scotland will be able to debate and decide on its future through a civic and democratic process.

"This is the chance of a lifetime and we want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to ask questions and air their views.

"We've already put forward our proposals for Scotland's future and demonstrated how the powers of independence can be used to build a wealthier and fairer Scotland, but it's crucial everyone who lives and works in Scotland considers and discusses with others the sort of country they want Scotland to be in the future."

A spokesman for the pro-UK Better Together group hit out at the First Minister and said: "Instead of focusing on his day job of tackling the big issues like healthcare, education and childcare, it seems Alex Salmond would rather tour the country at taxpayer expense promoting his independence obsession.

"The First Minister can travel the length and breadth of the country but his failure to provide credible answers on the currency, EU membership and what independence would cost us means the people of Scotland aren't buying what he is selling."

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