London (AFP) - Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond urged voters to seize the chance for independence as the Scottish Parliament met for the final time before next month's referendum.
Salmond said the September 18 vote was the "greatest opportunity we will ever have" to leave the United Kingdom and become an independent state again.
"Today the 120 members-plus of this parliament are debating Scotland's future," Salmond said Thursday, beginning the last sessions before the recess.
"In four weeks' time the people of Scotland get the opportunity to decide Scotland's future."
The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader told the Edinburgh parliament that the referendum would be "the first time ever the people of Scotland have had democratic control over their own destiny".
He urged them: "When the polls close, let's not hand that control back.
"Let's keep Scotland's future in Scotland's hands, then come together to build the better Scotland we know is possible."
Johann Lamont, leader of the pro-union main opposition Labour Party, said it was vital for all sides to accept the result and for Scotland to agree on a settled constitution.
"We stand at an important moment in the history of our country," she said, a chance "finally to answer the constitutional question and agree among us the settled will of the people of Scotland."
England and Scotland merged in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said Britain was "one of the greatest nations of this Earth."
"Britain didn't colonise us, and it didn't oppress us. Britain only exists because of us. Leaving it would be to lose something and to see what's left behind diminished too," she said.
Polls show the 'No' camp is ahead of the 'Yes' vote, with less than a month to go.
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "A 'No' vote is a vote of confidence.
"A vote of confidence in the ability of Scots to be all they can be, to aspire in the finest traditions of our nation, confident to be part of something bigger, with global reach, of 60 million people, with an economic base with broad shoulders, proud to stand with the rest of our family in our United Kingdom."
Salmond's 'Yes' camp received a boost Thursday when the Adam Smith Institute free market think-tank said an independent Scotland could "thrive" if it kept the pound as its currency, without the formal, euro-style currency union the SNP wants.
"The unilateral use of another country's currency can instil a discipline in a country's financial sector that neither a national currency nor a currency union can provide," it said.
- Politics & Government
- Scottish Parliament
- Scottish National Party