The Scottish government has published its white paper on Scotland's constitutional future, paving the way for an independence referendum.
First Minister Alex Salmond said Scotland must be independent to meet its full economic potential.
He also outlined a series of other options, including substantial new powers for the Scottish Parliament.
The minority SNP administration does not have enough support from opposition parties to stage a referendum in 2010.
The white paper, launched on St Andrew's Day, sets out independence as its favoured option.
Three other possible scenarios for Scotland's future are contained in the white paper: no change in the present set-up; more powers, as recommended by the Calman Commission review of devolution; and a major transfer of responsibilities from Westminster to Holyrood, such as full financial autonomy.
Brian Taylor BBC Scotland political editor
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott is resolutely opposed to a referendum in 2010, arguing it would be a costly waste of time in a recession.
Mr Salmond's tactical hope is that things could change after the next Holyrood elections in 2011.
What if, he imagines, the Lib Dems have posited "devo max" in their manifesto for those elections?
Could that form the basis for a coalition deal - or a compact to hold a plebiscite?
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