The First Minister will put a referendum Bill at the heart of the Scottish Government's programme for the coming year.
Plans for a vote on independence in autumn 2014 have already been set out.
A Bill for the vote will be one of 15 pieces of legislation introduced to Holyrood in the coming parliamentary year.
With MSPs returning to the Scottish Parliament after their summer recess, Alex Salmond will unveil his Government's legislative programme.
As well as a referendum Bill, the programme may include legislation to introduce gay marriage. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced recently that the Government intends to change the law to allow same-sex couples to wed.
A children's Bill may also be introduced, which will increase free childcare.
Mr Salmond pledged to the SNP conference this year that Scotland will have the best free nursery education in the UK, with a legal guarantee of around 600 hours of free nursery education for every three and four-year-old, as well as for two-year-olds who are in care.
A Budget Bill will set out the SNP administration's spending plan for 2013-14.
After Mr Salmond has set out the legislative programme MSPs will debate it, continuing into Wednesday afternoon.
The new parliamentary term also sees Holyrood introduce a new weekly timetable, with the main chamber sitting for three days a week instead of two.
Questions to ministers and debates will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Holyrood committees will now meet in the mornings on these days.
Holyrood bosses hope the changes will make parliament more responsive as the new timetable introduces topical questions, allowing MSPs to ask ministers about current issues on Tuesday afternoons.
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