Scottish independence: Queen 'hopes voters think carefully' over Union vote
The Queen has broken her silence on the issue of Scottish independence, telling a member of the public that she hopes "people will think very carefully about the future" when they head to the polls on Thursday.
The monarch spoke out as the campaign entered its final week, with tensions high and tempers increasingly frayed as both Yes and No camps battle for the final few hundred thousand voters who have yet to make up their minds.
Yes Scotland said Her Majesty was "echoing the message" it was sending voters to "think very carefully about this one opportunity that Scotland will have on Thursday to choose our future", while a Better Together source merely said she had been "very clear that she doesn't want to comment" on a democratic decision.
David Cameron will be hoping to avoid a hostile reception when he returns to Scotland today in a last-gasp attempt to persuade Scots to preserve the Union – his final visit before Thursday's vote.
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said yesterday that the referendum was "a once-in-a-generation opportunity", confirming that in the event of a No vote he would not seek to hold another one for 20 years.
The No campaign appears to be holding on to its narrow lead, according to a series of opinion polls published over the weekend.
Excluding undecided voters, a survey by Opinium for The Observer had it leading by 53% to 47%, while a Survation poll commissioned by Better Together put the gap at 54% to 46%. An ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph put the Yes camp in front by 54% to 46%, although it had a smaller-than-usual sample size.
The Queen made her comments while in conversation with a churchgoer outside Crathie Kirk in Aberdeenshire, where the Royal Family worship while they are in residence at nearby Balmoral Castle.
Buckingham Palace said it did not comment on "private conversations" held by the monarch.