The Scottish government has published its white paper on independence, outlining how it believes a Yes vote in next year's referendum could pave the way for a new era for the nation.

In the long-awaited document, the government said there are "three overriding reasons" for Scotland to leave the UK and become a separate state.

It claimed independence will create a more democratic Scotland, as well as a country that is both more prosperous and fairer.

The 670-page paper sets out how independence could have an impact on all areas of life, including currency, taxation, childcare and education, pensions, welfare, defence and broadcasting.

The SNP administration also sets out a number of promises if it was elected as the first government of a newly-independent Scotland.

Nationalists pledged "transformational extension of childcare" to help working parents, a cut in corporation tax to boost business and a simplified and fairer tax system.

They also pledge to end controversial welfare reforms brought in by the British government by axing the "bedroom tax" and halting the roll-out of universal credit and personal independence payments.

The independence referendum, to be held on 18 September next year, gives voters "a choice between two futures", the government stated.

A Yes vote will mean "the most important decisions about our economy and society will be taken by the people who care most about Scotland, that is by the people of Scotland".

It said: "The door will open to a new era for our nation. Scotland's future will be in Scotland's hands."

But it claims a vote in favour of staying part of the UK would mean that "Scotland stands still".

As a result of that, the government states a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to follow a different path and choose a new and better direction for our nation is lost".

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said the document is the most comprehensive blueprint for an independent country ever published.

"But more than that, it is a mission statement and a prospectus for the kind of country we should be and which this government believes we can be," he said.

"Our vision is of an independent Scotland regaining its place as an equal member of the family of nations. However, we do not seek independence as an end in itself, but rather as a means to changing Scotland for the better.

"We know we have the people, the skills and resources to make Scotland a more successful country. What we need now are the economic tools and powers to build a more competitive, dynamic economy and create more jobs."