PM in emotional plea for No vote
David Cameron has made an emotional appeal to Scots ahead of next week's independence referendum, saying he would be "heartbroken" if the vote results in the United Kingdom being "torn apart".
The Prime Minister pledged he would respect the result of next week's ballot, adding that if Scotland opted for independence he would help make that happen.
But he said it would be "heartbreaking" to "break up this family of nations".
The Prime Minister made the plea after he, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg all abandoned Westminster for the day to campaign for the union, as polls suggest the result could be too close to call.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond claimed the ''panicked'' last minute visit by the three leaders would only serve to galvanise support for a Yes vote on September 18, as he characterised today's campaigning as "Team Scotland against Team Westminster".
The First Minister said ''The breadth and reach of the Yes campaign is there for all to see, it's not about the Scottish National Party, the Green Party, it goes right through every sector of Scottish society.
''What we're seeing today on the other side is Team Westminster jetting up to Scotland for the day because they are panicking in the campaign."
Mr Cameron said he had travelled north to make the "arguments of the heart" in a bid to keep the United Kingdom together.
While he said others had suggested it would be "easier" for the Tories to win a majorit y at Westminster if Scotland was no longer in the UK, he said: "I care far more about my country than I do about my party.
"I care hugely about this extraordinary country, this United Kingdom, that we have built together.
"I would be heartbroken if this family of nations we have put together and that has done such amazing things together, if this family of nations was torn apart."
The Conservative leader told workers at financial company Scottish Widow's Edinburgh headquarters: " This vote that you're about to have in Scotland in eight days' time, this vote is not about whether Scotland is a nation or not. Scotland is a nation, Scotland is an incredible nation, it is a strong, proud nation with an extraordinary history and incredibly talented people.
"But it is a nation that has chosen for the past 300 years to be part of a family of nations."
He continued: " This vote you're going to have is not about Scotland versus Britain, it's a vote about two competing visions for Scotland and I hope you choose the vision of Scotland that is about Scottish pride, Scottish patriotism and Scottish nationhood but is also about being part of this family of nations that we have created."
The Prime Minister said: "I f Scotland votes for separation, that vote has to be respected by the rest of the United Kingdom, and as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom I would have to help make that happen.
"It would be a heart-breaking thing to have to do to break up this family of nations that has been such a success, but we would have to make it happen.
"We are a democracy, you cannot hold people inside the United Kingdom against their will and we should be proud of the fact that we are a democracy and that we vote about these things."
In a bid to persuade Scots to stay in the union, the three Westminster parties are offering to fast-track more new powers for Holyrood.
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 on it begin next Friday, the day after the referendum, if there is a No vote, while draft legislation could be drawn up by January.
The Prime Minister said today that a No vote on September 18 would "trigger a very rapid and comprehensive move" to more powers for Holyrood.
"There is a very clear political will amongst the parties, and that is as close to a guarantee as you can get," he told staff at Scottish Widows.
He also used the visit to stress the "scale of the decision" Scots will be taking in the referendum.
He said: "Sometimes because it is an election, because it is a ballot, I think people can feel it is a bit like a general election, that you make a decision and five years later you can make another decision... if you're fed up with the effing Tories give them a kick.
"This is totally different from a general election, this is a decision about not the next five years it's a decision about the next century."
He told how while the future of the union is for voters in Scotland to decide, there " is real passion and feeling in the rest of the United Kingdom" about what could happen.
"D on't for one minute think the rest of the United Kingdom is indifferent," he said.
"We care passionately about this family of nations, we care about it because we believe all of us, wherever we are from, that these islands are our home.
"Whether it's the mountains of Scotland, or the glens of Antrim, the valleys of Wales, the Cornish coast, it's our country that we love, it's the place that we love, that means so much to all of us.
"It is your decision, it's the Scottish people who decide, but please be in no doubt that the rest of the United Kingdom is watching, listening, holding our breath. We care passionately about this family of nations and we would really be desperately sad to see it torn apart."
The Prime Minister also visited a small business in the Scottish capital, Baillie Signs, where he spoke to staff about how orders are improving now the UK is out of recession.
But Mr Salmond, who was also campaigning in Edinburgh, said the Prime Minister, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg had "arrived in a last-minute panic".
He added: "Now we are entitled to say that today's campaign is Team Westminster - that is Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg - against Team Scotland which is the broad based Scottish campaign.
"So today that is the line up on either side, that is the political football match that is being played. And I think Team Scotland are two or three up with seven minutes still to play."
The SNP leader warned that if there is a Yes vote the Prime Minister's job could be in jeopardy.
Mr Salmond pointed to the Tory leader's failure to take part in a televised referendum debate, and added: "His problem now is that in the absence of being prepared to do that and making this last-gasp, last-ditch, desperate jetting up to Scotland, if the people of Scotland decide to vote for independence then I would say David Cameron is in a pretty untenable position."
He added: "All political parties, even the Tories, respond to leadership.
"They've not had much of it from David Cameron and therefore if the people of Scotland so choose to vote for independence next Thursday, and I'm taking nothing for granted, then I think David Cameron, as they say: 'His jaiket will be on a shoogly nail'."