THE referendum on independence will be carried out under the highest standards of fairness, the Deputy First Minister has pledged
Nicola Sturgeon set out the plans for the vote on September 18 next year, and said it would be conducted to the highest standards of fairness and transparency.
The Glasgow Southside SNP MSP used her speech to say she would be persuading people that an independent Scottish Parliament would take decisions that would be better for Scotland than those taken by a UK government at Westminster.
She said: "The Scottish Government is legislating to give the Scottish people the chance to complete the powers of the parliament.
"We all, even those opposed, know Scotland can be a successful independent country and we can more than afford to be. Our task is to persuade people she should be an independent country."
Ms Sturgeon said: "I believe we have proved over the last 14 years decisions are best taken here in Scotland. Accountable to the Scottish Parliament we make good decisions.
"When we leave it in the hands of Westminster we get cuts to welfare and austerity.
"Bring home the powers to deliver the country we want to be and which we can be proud of."
MSPs at Holyrood were debating the principles of the Referendum Bill as it passed the first stage of the parliamentary process.
Labour's Drew Smith, also a Glasgow MSP, agreed on the standards to be set but said it must be ensured they were set out well in advance.
He said: "Labour supports the need get fair rules established now. Despite our differing views on the answer, this question should be put."
He said the referendum on independence was different for the referendum on devolution in 1997 and from Scottish and UK General Elections.
He said: "This contest is different from all previous contests. It can't be left to be adjudicated afterwards. Safeguards must be built in."
Alex Johnstone, Conservative MSP, accused Ms Sturgeon of using the debate to start the campaign early.
He said: "We are all Scots, passionate about the past, present and future.
"In little more than a year we will have made a decision and some of us will be extremely disappointed.
"When this is over we will all be in Scotland together and have to make it work whatever the outcome."
The Scottish Government is expected to publish its White Paper on independence later this year, which will set out the future vision for Scotland if there is a yes vote in the referendum.