By Kate Devlin, UK Political Correspondent. The precise manner of the referendum itself could have been just a technicality. But the voting process is the subject of ferocious debate between the Scottish and UK Governments on a number of issues including when it should be held, how it should be run, and what it should ask. Experts on elections disagree over the extent to which such questions have an impact on any outcome. But the two governments have each launched formal consultations on the vote, and the findings will be the subject of what are expected to be tense negotiations between Edinburgh and London before Scots will know the shape of any referendum about Scotland’s future.
Below, we outline the contrasting arguments from the Holyrood and Westminster governments.
The Scottish Government has said that the terms of the referendum must not be dictated by London and has launched a consultation to look at a range of issues. Scottish ministers have set out a series of preferences, including over the exact wording of the independence question, suggesting: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"
The Scottish Government is also consulting whether 16 and 17 year olds should be given a vote, a position which the UK Government is against.
And Alex Salmond has made clear that if there is public support for the so-called "devo-max" second option, which the UK Government also opposes, then he will press to have that included on the ballot paper.
The Scottish Government has also made clear that it wants to stick to its announced 2014 timescale for any vote, insisting that a vote of this magnitude must follow a proper considered process.
The Coalition Government says that it has received advice that the Scottish Parliament is not legally able to hold its own referendum. It says that it wants to offer Holyrood those powers but it would need some conditions attached. These include over when it is held, how many questions are on the ballot paper, and who will be able to vote.
Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has said that he wants the final vote to be "legal, clear and decisive" and is acting to ensure that is the case. The UK Government still technically has the legal ability to call its own referendum should talks fail, although its own consultation revealed little appetite for that option.
Two UK law officers, Attorney General Dominic Grieve and Advocate General Lord Wallace, could refer a referendum to the Supreme Court should Holyrood push ahead to organise its own poll, although Coalition sources insist that they are not keen to go down that route.