The two rival referendum campaigns have issued a final rallying call to voters in Scotland, as they prepare to decide the future of the United Kingdom in tomorrow’s historic ballot.
With less than 24 hours to go until polls open, those for and against independence have been on the streets of Scotland for one last day of frantic campaigning.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown – who has been key in securing a fast tracked pledge for more powers for Holyrood if the result is No – made a passionate appeal to Better Together activists in Glasgow
He told then that the SNP’s main aim is to “break every single constitutional and political link with our neighbours and friends in the United Kingdom”.
But Mr Brown insisted: “We will not have this.”
The Labour MP said of tomorrow’s referendum: “The silent majority will be silent no more.”
Polls continue to suggest that the referendum contest is going down to the wire, with three separate surveys last night all putting support for No narrowly ahead on 52%, with 48% for Yes.
But Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said he was confident voters would back independence when they go to the polls.
Speaking on a visit to an engineering firm in Stewarton, Ayrshire, the SNP leader said: “My confidence is based on what’s happening in the streets and communities around Scotland, I think there’s a very substantial movement towards yes because people understand this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to take the future of this country into our hands.
“When people go into the polling booths tomorrow they are going to vote for something, for a that vision of more prosperous but also a more just society, that’s what’s going to motivate people in the polling stations tomorrow.”
He added: “I think the movement is to Yes. I’m certain of that actually. I think we’re being helped enormously by two things. One is the total negativity of the No campaign, it’s a dismal, depressing no campaign. But also the positive message of Yes.
“We see in the employment figures today, a 45,000 increase in Scottish jobs, soaring beyond the UK level, Scottish unemployment well down, that’s fantastic news for Scotland.”
On his visit to Hyspec Engineering Mr Salmond heard about the company’s expansion plans, saying it was ” that sort of economic confidence that makes people realise that we can build a prosperous economy and also have a just society and the No campaign have got nothing to compete with that vision”.
Mr Brown however said the No campaign had been proud of its ” patriotic vision, proud of our Scottish identity” as well as being “proud of the Scottish Parliament that we, not the nationalist party, created”.
He went on to say they were “proud also that we are increasing the powers of that parliament”, adding the change on offer if Scotland stays in the union would be “faster, safer, better, friendlier change than ever the nationalists could have proposed”.
He continued: “The vote tomorrow is not about whether Scotland is a nation – we are, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
“It’s not about whether there is a Scottish Parliament – we have it.
“It’s not about whether there are increased powers, we are all agreed to increase the powers.
“The vote tomorrow is whether you want to break and sever every link, and I say let’s keep our UK pensions, let’s keep our UK pound, let’s keep our UK passports, let’s keep our UK welfare state.”
He added that the UK had fought and won wars together, had “built the peace together”, as well as establishing the National Health Service and the welfare state together.
“We will build the future together,” he said.
“What we have built together, by sacrificing and sharing, let no narrow nationalism split asunder ever.”
Former chancellor Alistair Darling also addressed the Better Together rally, where he said: ”We are on the eve of the most momentous decision that Scotland will ever take.
”We will decide our country’s future. It’s that important.”
Mr Darling added: ” ‘If you have such a momentous decision to take you need to have certainty, but what is very clear at the end of this long campaign from the nationalist side is there is no certainty at all.
”For anyone in Scotland who has any doubt, be in no doubt you have to say No.”
He insisted that the offer of more powers from the three Westminster parties was a better option than the ”years of wrangling and uncertainty” that would follow a Yes vote.
Mr Darling said: ”A vote to say No is a vote to keep the currency, a vote to say No is to safeguard the payment of pensions, a vote to say No is to guarantee the funding and the strength of our National Health Service.
”A vote to say No is a vote, too, for a stronger, strengthened Scottish Parliament with control over key services like health, like education, to make Scotland stronger, sooner and safer.
”Far better than years of wrangling of uncertainty that would follow a vote for separation.”
While David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have all pledged to deliver more powers to Holyrood if Scotland rejects independence, this has been dismissed by nationalists.
Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hit out: ” ‘The No camp’s panicked scramble to try and bribe the people of Scotland with a last-minute flimsy and meaningless offer is fooling no-one.
”Despite the fact the ‘vow’ doesn’t guarantee a single power, it has taken less that 24 hours to fall apart – Tory MPs are already up in arms about it. They are desperate to grip on to power over Scotland and – in the event of a No vote – they would not let it go.
”This is absolute proof that the only way to guarantee Scotland gets the full powers we need to create more jobs, protect the NHS and build a fairer Scotland for generations to come is to vote Yes.”
Yes Scotland chair Dennis Canavan, who addressed as crowd of activists in Glasgow city centre, also insisted the people of Scotland would ”not be fooled”.
The commitment to further devolution, coupled with a promise to maintain the Barnett Formula, which determines how funding is distributed across the UK, could spark a backlash among Conservative backbenchers.
Philip Davies, the Tory MP for Shipley in Yorkshire, said he would not back such a deal, saying on Twitter: ”For the record I will not be voting to maintain an unfair funding settlement for Scotland, whatever Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg say.
”In the event of a No vote I will be doing all I can to stop MPs from Scotland voting on issues in Parliament which don’t relate to Scotland.”
Mr Canavan, a former Labour MP, said comments such as that showed that the pro-UK campaign was ”in a complete state of disarray, with their so-called vow for extra powers for the Scottish Parliament”.
He hit out: ”A vow – it looks like something written on the back of a fag packet at the fag end of a long campaign. But the people of Scotland will not be fooled.
”There is only one guarantee of getting more powers for the Scottish Parliament, and that is by voting Yes.
”So let’s take that message out, let’s take our message out to every street, every city, every town, every village. every community, every workplace, every home in Scotland.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the referendum would be ” the most important vote any of us will cast in our lifetime”.
She added: ” We are not being asked to pick a government for five years, but to choose whether or not to break our country apart forever. There will be no going back after a Yes vote.
“But the risks of separation are risks that we don’t have to take as a country.
“Change is coming – sweeping new powers to put the Scottish Parliament in charge of tax and welfare.
“But we will ensure that change doesn’t come at the cost of our security and prosperity.”
UK Business Secretary Vince Cable also urged Scots to reject independence as he headed north of the border.
The veteran Liberal Democrat said: ”I have a lot of personal connections with Scotland: I lived here, have worked here and my children were born here.
”It is a place for which I continue to have a deep affection and I would hate to see Scotland leave the United Kingdom.
”As a Yorkshireman, as an MP for a London constituency and as a former councillor in Glasgow, I am proud of what we have achieved as a UK family of nations.”
He said there were so many ” positive things we have achieved together” and asked: “Why walk away from it?
“I would urge people in a nation that was home to me for many years to say No to separation. I want Scotland to stay with us.”
Mr Salmond said the Yes campaign was still the underdog in the referendum, but added that “underdogs have a habit of winning sometimes”.
As he visited Braehead Foods in Kilmarnock, Mr Salmond was asked his “gut feeling” on tomorrow’s vote.
He said: “We’re in the hands of Scotland and there’s nowhere better to be, or safer to be, than in the hands of the people of Scotland. They will exercise their judgment.”
The First Minister said: ” I think we are the underdogs and have been throughout the campaign. We’ve had the kitchen sink and quite a bit of the living room thrown at us by Downing Street and the London establishment. That makes us the underdogs.
“However as we know in life, in politics and certainly in this festival of democracy, underdogs have a habit of winning sometimes.
“I feel very optimistic that this sense of opportunity that people have, an opportunity to take the future of their country into their own hands, is moving many, many people towards a Yes vote tomorrow.”
Later, hundreds of Yes voters gathered in Glasgow’s George Square to make a noisy show of their support for the campaign.
They waved Saltires in the afternoon sun as they cheered speeches and sang along to bands.
One No supporter, an elderly man with a white beard, glasses and a cap, struggled to make himself heard despite his megaphone as he spoke from his vantage point at the foot of the Sir Walter Scott monument.
A Yes campaigner waved a flag in the man’s face before another pro-independence supporter pulled the Yes protester away.
John Love, a retired warehouseman from Rosyth, Fife, told how he had spent two weeks making a special Saltire which read: “Scottish Independence Day, Bannockburn 1314, Ballot Box 2014, Freedom forever.”
He said he is 98% confident of victory, after years of waiting for independence.
Asked how he will feel on Friday morning if he gets the win, he replied: “Ecstatic. I will be partying for weeks.
“I can’t really put it in words. I can’t say anything I’m that excited.”
His friend Stephen Eskdale, 52, who is unemployed and from the Easterhouse area of Glasgow, said he too believes victory is in sight.
“Just seeing today what’s happening – it’s people power and the people are going to win. There’s no ifs nor buts.
“This is what it’s all about for me, independence and freedom, and to get rid of Trident, 40 miles away from Glasgow, and that’s got to stop.”