Scotland sets Sept. 18, 2014, as date for referendum vote to declare independence from the UK

Scottish leader Alex Salmond has set Sept. 18, 2014, as the date for an independence referendum that could radically alter the shape of the United Kingdom.

Salmond announced the date of the long-awaited vote to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, saying it would be a "historic day when the people will decide Scotland's future."

Salmond's nationalist party wants Scots to become independent, ending more than 300 years of union with England.

The British government is campaigning to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, saying independence would create a deeply uncertain future.

Scotland and England united in 1707 to form Great Britain, but Scotland gained significant autonomy after voting in 1997 to set up the Edinburgh-based Scottish Parliament, which has power over areas including education, health and justice.