March 24,  2016 has been renamed Independence Day – at least, by the Scottish National Party. That’s the day when they say Scotland could break away from the United Kingdom – following a Yes vote in next September’s referendum on independence.

For much of the debate so far, the SNP promised voters that they would find the answers to their questions about an independent Scotland in the party’s White Paper. That paper was finally revealed in Glasgow this morning, followed by a statement to Members of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood this afternoon.

First Minister and SNP Leader Alex Salmond has framed the referendum as a chance for Scottish people to become masters of their own destiny.

He said: “Ultimately, at the heart of this debate there’s only one question or one choice. Do we, the people who live and work in Scotland, believe we are the best people to take the big decisions about our future?”

But many say today’s 670 page document left them none the wiser about how the future would look. Glasgow Central MP Anas Sarwar is Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party and part of the Better Together pro-union campaign.

He said: “After two years of promises about a document that would detail all the answers, the question to be asking is seriously, is that it?”

He says much remains unclear – particularly since the SNP has based much of its projections on the assumption that an independent Scotland would be part of a “sterling zone” that keeps the Pound. Yet that hasn’t been agreed to by anyone in Westminster.

He said,“It’s a document based entirely on an assertion that we’d keep Sterling as part of a sterling zone with the rest of the United Kingdom. But we can’t give that guarantee, that’s a negotiation position not a mandate position.

First Minister Alex Salmond says the Sterling zone is the best option – for both Scotland and the remaining members of the UK.

He said, “The advantages of having the same currency as your major trading partner for Scotland, and your second major trading partner for the rest of United Kingdom, gives mutual benefit which provides the argument behind the Sterling area. That’s why it’s in best interest of Scotland and the best interests of the rest of the UK.”

An independent Scotland’s role within the European Union also appears somewhat up in the air. Alex Salmond says…

As you know our position is we are very happy to enter talks with European Commission but it’s been made clear these talks have to be initiated by member state, i.e. the UK. The UK Government doesn’t want to do that. We’ve put forward a proposition that we believe there’ll be enthusiasm for Scotland’s membership of the EU. We certainly haven’t heard anything to the contrary.”

But pro-unionists like Anas Sarwar aren’t convinced.

“The terms of membership are really, really important. They accept they’ll have to be negotiated with the other 27 members of the EU. That again brings into question the currency; would we have to join the euro? It brings into question the free movement of citizens. The fact we currently have the Schengen opt out. Is that up for question also? It has an impact on our fisheries policy. It has an impact on our farming policy. And all those terms of membership are up for negotiation and could actually leave Scotland in a worse position."

The SNP is facing allegations that not much was really very new in today’s white paper. But one policy that has been revealed is the party’s plans for childcare. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says the SNP would transform childcare in an independent Scotland – providing thirty hours of free childcare per week for all three and four-year-olds.

But with the SNP in power for six years in Scotland, critics say there’s no reason the childcare policy couldn’t already be in place.

Anas Sarwar says:“We don’t need to break up the United Kingdom to actually deliver quality childcare. The powers already exist within the Scottish Parliament to have at transformative childcare policy right now. Why wait until the referendum? This isn’t about changing women’s lives. This is about winning women’s votes.”

Nicola Sturgeon says:“Why can we not do that now? Because if we did that now, then the increased revenues from that would flow straight to the UK Treasury rather than staying here in Scotland to help us fund that policy.”

One issue the SNP is very clear about is the future of the Trident nuclear submarines, owned by the Royal Navy and stored in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon again:

“We want to see the speediest, safe removal of Trident from the Clyde as quickly as is safely possible within first term of Scottish parliament being our aim and intention. One of the many key benefits about independence is we get to make that choice. We get to decide not to spend billions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction that nobody wants or uses.

It’s not yet clear how the promises made in the SNP’s white paper will be received by the Scottish people. Recent polling has 60% of voters opposed to independence. But if the Yes vote succeeds, the SNP says Scotland will be its own country by March 2016. Professor Robert Hazell from UCL says that’s a reasonable timeframe.

“The most recent division that we looked at a lot in our research was between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The negotiations there took only six months. So for the Scottish Government to allow 18 months for negation with the UK Government seems to me enough time.”

But Professor Hazel says there’s much that remains unanswered in the White Paper. And many of the biggest questions relating to an independent Scotland’s future won’t be answered until vital negations are held with Europe and the parties in Westminster. They’re not likely to take place without a Yes vote. Professor Hazel says that means voters should be allowed back to the polls once the true terms of independence are known.

“The SNP have never accepted the case for a second referendum. I make the case it is essentially democratic, because there’s a real risk that the White Paper today cannot be fulfilled. And if the Scottish Government cannot get what it wants I think the people of Scotland should be asked a second time, do you still want independence on these reduced terms?”

The debate is set to continue for another 10 months at least. Scottish voters go to the polls on September 18 next year.

Scotland: "If we vote yes, we will move forward with confidence"

(Voice of Russia)