SNP outlines plans for Independence referendum

Alex Salmond has announced an
independence referendum bill as the centrepiece of the Scottish Government’s plans
for the coming year.

The SNP leader wants to stage the
independence referendum in 2010.

Mr Salmond revealed details of a
total of 13 bills, including minimum alcohol pricing, marking the start of the
SNP's third legislative session.

The first minister told MSPs
there was a "consensus for change" on Scotland's constitutional
status.

He said: "I want Scotland to
have the same responsibilities and opportunities as similar nations.

"Until we can use all the
economic and financial levers available to every other government in the world,
Scotland will always be at a competitive disadvantage."

Mr Salmond said he had been
"very proud" to lead the Scottish Government but warned a "glass
ceiling" threatened to stall the country's progress.

"This government was elected
with a popular mandate to put the question of Scotland's future to the vote in
a referendum," he said.

"It is time for the people
of Scotland to have their say. Not everyone will agree with our vision for the
future, we know that.

"But the people of Scotland
must be heard. This parliament should not stand in their way - let the people
speak."

The Scottish Government has said
it could be a multi-option referendum - and this could include the tax changes
proposed by the Calman Commission on devolution.

Other bills put before the
parliament include a minimum pricing strategy aimed at stopping high-strength
alcohol being sold for "pocket money prices", without affecting
premium products like Scotch whisky.

There will also be a bill for a
replacement of the Forth crossing, building a new bridge to the west of the
current road crossing.

A housing bill would end the
right-to-buy for all new-supply social housing and there will be a bill to give
patients greater rights on waiting times in the NHS.

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