Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: Battle between Yes and No takes a bitter twist in final hours of campaigning

By Adrian Rutherford

The battle over Scotland's future has entered its final hours amid a row over a last-ditch pledge to devolve more powers to its parliament.

The three Westminster party leaders jointly declared that Holyrood would be given greater control over tax, benefits and health.

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Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond dismissed the promise as "a last-minute desperate offer of nothing".

The increasingly bitter battle took another twist yesterday when Labour leader Ed Miliband scrapped a walkabout in Edinburgh after being jostled by protesters.

Mr Miliband was repeatedly branded "a f****** liar" on a visit to St James' Shopping Centre.

As campaigning ahead of tomorrow's vote enters its final day:

  • The Prime Minister joined Mr Miliband and Nick Clegg in pledging to keep the Barnett Formula and hand more cash to the Scots;
  • Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a Yes vote would mean a "unique opportunity" to secure job-creating powers;
  • A leading economist dismissed Mr Salmond's campaign promises as "implausible".

The latest opinion polls suggest the outcome of tomorrow's referendum is still too close to call.

With the result on a knife-edge, both sides will today make a last-ditch bid to sway voters.

However, a key event had to be scrapped yesterday after Mr Miliband was jostled during a visit to the capital.

Yes protesters called out: "This is what a political class looks like when it's dying".

Earlier, Mr Miliband joined with Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg in pledging "extensive new powers" for Scotland if it rejects independence.

These would be "delivered by the process and to the timetable agreed" by the three parties.

The leaders also said they agreed that "the UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably".

They also stated that the final say on funding for the NHS would be a matter for the Scottish government "because of the continuation of the Barnett allocation for resources, and the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise revenue".

Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, speaking for the Better Together movement, said it offered "the best of both worlds".

"We can have a stronger Scottish parliament but with the strength, stability and security of the United Kingdom," he said. "That pledge, that vow that we can have faster, safer, better change, is actually a vision around which Scotland can unite."

However, Mr Salmond dismissed it as "desperate".

He said: "It's a classic example of how this last-minute desperate offer of nothing is not going to dissuade people in Scotland from the huge opportunity of taking Scotland's future into Scotland's hands this coming Thursday."

Earlier, Ms Sturgeon criticised the timing and sincerity of the pledge.

"If there was a serious intention to deliver more powers, why hasn't that happened before now?" she said.

Speaking at an event at Renfrew, near Glasgow, Scotland's deputy first minister also said an independent Scotland would start from "the strongest possible economic foundations".

"Scotland has the wealth, the confidence and the abilities to be a successful independent nation," she said.

"With a Yes vote on Thursday we can secure the job-creating powers that will enable us to make the most of all our opportunities."

However, highly respected US economist Alan Greenspan accused the Yes campaign of drastically understating the economic damage that independence could cause.

The former chairman of the US Federal Reserve said the consequences of independence would be "surprisingly negative for Scotland, more so than the nationalist party is in any way communicating".

He said the SNP's forecasts were "so implausible they really should be dismissed out of hand".

Scottish Independence Vote further reading

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