THE consultation with hundreds of voters to test the referendum question will begin as early as next week, as the Electoral Commission said everything had been in place awaiting the "starter's gun" when the Scottish Government formally submitted proposals.

A spokeswoman said the commission would consult several hundred Scots in a mixture of one-to-one interviews and small focus groups, and these would involve a cross-section of the electorate, including the newly enfranchised group of those who will be 16 and 17 two years from now.

The elderly would also be interviewed as a specific category, as would the disabled, those with literacy difficulties and those for whom English is not their first language. The exercise will cover the entire country.

The key aim is to establish if the question is clear, simple and neutral.