EDINBURGH, Scotland, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- As the citizens of Scotland prepare to decide whether or not to remain a part of the United Kingdom, UPI looks back at the events that led to the historic vote.
Jan. 2012: First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party Alex Salmond launches campaign for an independent Scotland.
"The Scottish government has an ambitious vision for Scotland: a prosperous and successful European country, reflecting Scottish values of fairness and opportunity, promoting equality and social cohesion."
March 2013: Scottish law is changed to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the referendum on March 12. Two weeks later, Salmond announces the vote for independence will be held on Sept. 18, 2014 and cost roughly $20 million.
April 2013: Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says an independent Scotland would not host England's Trident nuclear missile system, speaking for the first time on specific ambitions to fulfill Salmond's promise of a nuclear-weapon-free Scotland.
"Trident isn't the answer to the threats we face as a country. We are pledged to get rid of Trident and only an independent Scotland will be able to do so."
September 2013: The independence movement struggles as a straw poll indicates only 31 percent of likely voters support leaving the United Kingdom. Salmond holds an independence rally in Edinburgh, blasting the policies of Westminster to a crowd of between 20,000 and 30,000 Scots.
"For 40 years they have told us we are subsidized, for 50 years they have polluted this country with missiles and bombs and told us it was all for peace. For a quarter of a century they have promised us progress, but delivered us the fourth most unequal society in the developed world."
October 2013: Despite claims by the Scottish government of over 20 billion remaining barrels of oil in the North Sea, OPEC Secretary General Abdalla el-Badri says most of the reserves an independent Scotland would have claims to have been depleted, and the hypothetical nation would be forced to rely on foreign oil.
"Myself, I don't see how England will stay without Scotland and Scotland stay without England. This is how we all grew up, with the U.K., not with Scotland and England."
November 2013: The Scottish government releases the White Paper, a 670-page comprehensive plan laying out an independent Scotland's mission statement.
"This is the only detailed plan for Scotland's future, and today's publication marks a decisive shift in the debate on what that future should be."
"If Scotland walks away from the U.K., it walks away from the pound."
March 2013: Scottish actor Sean Connery comes out in favor of an independent Scotland.
"I now believe more than ever that Scotland is within touching distance of achieving independence and equality ... I believe we have what it takes ... and I am convinced it will happen in my lifetime."
August 2014: Salmond and former British Chancellor Allister Darling engage in a pair of debates on Scottish secession. The first debate was near evenly split with a slight edge to the United Kingdom, with 56 percent of viewers saying Darling won and 44 percent saying Salmond came out on top. The second debate proves much more one-sided as 71 percent of those polled felt Salmond presented the better argument.
"I want a mandate so we can go in with the will of the Scottish people, for the common sense option of a currency union ... The eyes of the world are indeed focused on Scotland. This is our time, our moment. Let us do it now."
September 2014: Public opinion takes a dramatic turn as support for an independent Scotland gains a slight lead in polling, 51 percent to 49 percent.
"It's clear that Scotland wants more control over the decisions that affect Scotland," admits Chancellor Osborne.
Sept. 18, 2014: Polls open and citizens of Scotland vote whether or not to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Latest opinion polls show 52 percent of decided voters prefer to stay in the U.K., versus 48 who want independence. Eight percent of Scotland remains undecided. Results are expected Friday morning.