NICOLA Sturgeon has called for "devo-max" for Scotland, as she unveiled proposals to put Holyrood in charge of almost all tax-raising and policy-making apart from defence, foreign affairs and the currency.

In a bid to seize the initiative in Lord Smith of Kelvin's process to agree new powers for the Scottish Parliament, the Deputy First Minister said Scotland should gain "maximum devolution".

Her blueprint would give Holyrood control over almost all taxation, including North Sea oil revenues, the welfare system, pensions and domestic policy in areas from elections to broadcasting.

The plans would allow the Scottish Parliament to call an independence referendum without requiring legal guarantees from Westminster.

Scottish ministers would also be given a direct voice within the EU on devolved matters.

She spoke out as Labour, the Conservatives, LibDems and pro-independence Greens submitted their own devolution proposals to Lord Smith's commission.

The Unionist parties restated their existing plans ahead of negotiations starting next week.

The fast-track process, promised by the pro-UK parties during the referendum campaign, aims to reach consensus on a package of fresh powers and allow draft legislation to be presented at Westminster by the end of January.

The Scottish Government's proposals were set out in a 34-page document, More Powers for the Scottish Parliament. Under the plans, Westminster would be left in charge of monetary policy, defence, intelligence and security, passports, citizenship rights and most foreign policy decisions.

The Scottish Government would pay an annual sum from its tax revenues towards defence, foreign policy and other shared services. It would also demand a direct say in UK defence and foreign policy decisions.

Critics last night warned devo-max would inevitably lead to friction between the Scottish and UK governments and would eventually fracture the Union.

Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: "It's clear, having lost the referendum, the SNP just want independence by the back door. This is totally incompatible with the idea of a United Kingdom. No arrangement like this exists anywhere in the world.

"It would be an inherently unstable constitutional settlement."

But Ms Sturgeon,who rejected the term "independence-lite", said her proposals amounted to maximum devolution within the United Kingdom.

Speaking as it emerged the SNP membership has soared to more than 80,000, she said: "The proposals we are publishing are not, cannot be, an attempt to win independence by the back door.

"If this process is to succeed there must be a willingness on all participants to compromise and that's the spirit that we enter these discussions in.

"We call on other parties to do likewise.

"For us, we need to acknowledge, as I have, that this process is not going to result in independence.

"Other parties need to acknowledge that the proposals they published back in the spring did not go far enough, do not amount to extensive additional powers for the Scottish Parliament and would not live up to the expectations that people in Scotland, I believe, have of this process."

She added: "This is a process that must deliver something substantial. That is the expectation that people in Scotland have of it."

Labour, the Conservatives and the LibDems indicated a willingness to compromise as they submitted their plans to Lord Smith yesterday.

The Conservatives' negotiators, former leader Annabel Goldie and Glasgow University academic Adam Tomkins said the party's proposals, which include the devolution of income tax rates and bands, should be regarded as a "floor rather than a ceiling".

Pledging to work with other parties, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "We want to build a consensus for positive change and deliver on the promises made during the referendum campaign."

Their comments followed an appeal by commission chairman Robert Smith for the parties to co-operate.

In a letter to the negotiating teams, he wrote: "We enter these talks with a weight of expectation upon us.

"The people of Scotland, whether they voted Yes or No, expect us to reach agreement. It will no doubt be a challenging process, with everyone having to give ground."

Bilateral talks between Lord Smith and party representatives will begin next week, aimed at establishing possible areas of compromise.

He revealed the first round-table talks, with all the parties, will take place on October 22.