Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg make last trip to Scotland as fight to keep UK together intensifies

Main parties political guns blazing to convince Scotland to stay as part of UK

The leaders of the three main Westminster parties are in Scotland today as the fight to keep the UK together intensifies ahead of next week's Scottish independence referendum.

David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg will all head north on separate visits in a bid to persuade Scots to vote No to independence, offering instead a fast-tracked timetable for further devolution.

But Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said the "panicked" visit would only serve to galvanise support for a Yes vote on September 18.

With momentum apparently gathering behind the pro-independence campaign, the unionist parties have been revising their plans for more powers to be handed to Holyrood in the event of a No vote.

In a dramatic move yesterday the Prime Minister and Labour leader announced they would not be taking part in their weekly exchanges at Prime Minister's Questions, saying instead they would be heading to Scotland, where they will be "'listening and talking to voters" about the choice they face next week.

The Deputy Prime Minister will also be on the campaign trail in Scotland, as polls increasing suggest the contest is too close to call.

Mr Salmond instantly dismissed the move as a sign of the "disarray" in the pro-union campaign.

He said today: "I relish David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg coming to Scotland - collectively, they are the least trusted Westminster leaders ever, and this day-trip will galvanise the Yes vote. No-one believes their panicked pledges - it is a phoney timetable for measly powers. A Yes vote delivers a real timetable for the full powers that Scotland needs.

"More and more people in Scotland are waking up to the fact only with the powers of independence can we secure real job creating powers and ensure that our National Health Service is fully protected."

He spoke out as the Yes campaign published a new advert, which claimed that "Labour and Tory politicians are cosying up together to make up phoney timetables for a few, very few, powers for Scotland".

More business leaders have also come out in favour of leaving the UK, with 100 putting their names to another newspaper advert taken out by the group Business for Scotland.

Mr Salmond said: "I'm delighted more businessmen and women have today announced they are backing Scottish independence.

"They understand that only with the full range of economic powers available to us can we create new jobs and generate more investment.

"Now that David Cameron is paying a panicked visit to Scotland, it is high time he found the courage of his convictions and agreed to debate the issues with me. The No side have lost their poll lead, and people are switching directly over to Yes - if David Cameron thinks he is the answer to the No campaign's disintegration disarray, let him put his case to the test in a head-to-head debate."

Mr Cameron has already given his backing to a timetable for transferring more powers that was outlined by his predecessor in Number 10, Labour's Gordon Brown.

This could see work towards this begin next Friday, the day after the referendum, if there is a No vote, while draft legislation could be drawn up by January.

In an article for the Daily Mail, the Prime Minister argued a "brighter future for Scotland rests not only on staying in the UK, but also on having significant new powers" adding that the new timetable would give Scots the "clarity" they need when considering which way to vote.

Mr Cameron said: "With this timetable, we are giving people that clarity, showing that by voting No, Scotland gets the best of both worlds: power over the policies that matter, and the stability of the United Kingdom; the freedom to chart its own destiny, and the support of three other nations; the reputation in the world as a successful nation, and the clout of a world-renowned union.

"But where we offer clarity, those who support separation offer only question marks. Just eight days away from the referendum, they are still unclear on what money Scotland could use without the pound sterling. The plan for Scotland to enter the EU is a blank page. The formula for filling the public services funding deficit is a blank space.

"While a Yes vote may be a lucky dip, a No vote is a guaranteed win for anyone who wants a stronger, more autonomous Scotland."

The Prime Minister added: "The United Kingdom is a precious and special country. That is what is at stake. So let no-one in Scotland be in any doubt: we desperately want you to stay; we do not want this family of nations to be ripped apart."

John Major warns over a Yes vote

Former prime minister Sir John Major has warned the UK's international standing would be "diminished" should Scotland vote Yes in the independence referendum.

Sir John said he hopes Scotland will not vote to break away when it votes on September 18 and warned Britain would be "damaged", leading to a decline in its role on the international stage including within the European Union and United Nations.

It comes as leaders of all three major parties travel to Scotland to attempt to boost the No campaign in the wake of recent polls suggesting pro-independence supporters had seized a narrow lead.

Writing in the Times, the former Conservative prime minister said: "I believe Scotland and the whole of the UK as a whole would be damaged. We need one another and, if separated, would all face unwelcome and unanticipated change.

"If the UK lost Scotland, it would be diminished - be in no doubt about that. Our defence would be severely weakened. Trident would almost certainly be lost. Britain's role as the second largest military force in the EU would be gone and, with it, many of our close ties to the United States.

"The UK would be weaker in every international body and, most damagingly, within the European Union. Our chance of reforming the EU would be diminished, and the risk of our exit from it enhanced. Britain's place as a member of the permanent five of the United Nations would no longer be viable."

Sir John, who said he opposed devolution 20 years ago, added a Yes vote could also lead to calls for independence from Wales.

Scottish Independence Vote further reading

Queen will not be dragged into Scottish independence debate, Palace warns No camp

Scottish independence: Unionists in Northern Ireland can expect a border poll of their own in the not-too-distant future

Westminster elite in a panic as more voters are backing Scottish independence, says Alex Salmond

UK is the envy of the world, David Cameron tells Scots

Scottish independence: Scotland is different...you only have to watch Braveheart or read the 1707 Act of Union to see how different

Scottish 'yes' is a big no, no according to Peter Scudamore

Scottish independence: Whether Yes or No, we can learn lessons from the Scots

Shift towards Yes camp up by 38% as campaigns neck-and-neck according to TNS Scotland survey

Gordon Brown makes devolution vow in bid to spike Yes campaign guns 

Economist warns Scotland 'to be afraid of independence'

Scottish Referendum: Wait and see the outcome before dealing with any implications, says Martin McGuinness

No and Yes neck and neck, poll says

Scottish independence: Yes vote would have repercussions on border control

Scotland swings to Yes but Alex Salmond isn't resting on his laurels

Scots offered more powers if they reject independence

Pro-independence Yes campaign leads polls for first time in Scottish referendum battle

Scottish independence: Logic of staying in United Kingdom is slow to sink in 

Scottish independence: A matter for the head and heart

Referendum outcome won't affect us - SDC Trailers aims to stay close to hauliers

Scotland independence could bring tax breaks for North Sea oil industry

Alistair Darling: Scottish independence referendum will go right to the wire

Scottish independence: Trade and cultural links too strong to ever break

Scottish referendum: London sells us short in buying No vote 

Independence: What's the next step for Scotland and how will Northern Ireland people living there vote? 

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