EDINBURGH - Scotland takes a big step on its path towards an independence referendum on Monday when its leader meets Britain's prime minister to finalize arrangements for a vote which could lead to the demise of Scotland's three-centuries-old union with England.

Scotland's drive for sovereignty, led by its nationalist leader Alex Salmond, echoes separatist moves by other European regions such as Catalonia and Flanders at a time when a crisis-hit European Union undergoes deep changes to its identity.

Expected to be signed in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, the deal will allow Scotland to decide in a 2014 referendum whether it should become an independent country or stay within the United Kingdom.

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