David Cameron has told Scots that he “won’t be here forever” but a decision to leave the UK would be forever, as he pleaded with voters to reject independence.
The Prime Minister returned to the referendum campaign trail in Aberdeen, as his rival Alex Salmond continued his bid for a Yes vote in Edinburgh and Stirling.
Speaking to an invited audience at the city’s exhibition and conference centre, Mr Cameron delivered a “message to the people of Scotland” from the rest of the UK.
“We want you to stay,” he said. “Head and heart and soul, we want you to stay.
“Please don’t mix up the temporary and the permanent.
“Please don’t think: ‘I’m frustrated with politics right now, so I’ll walk out the door and never come back’.
“If you don’t like me – I won’t be here forever.
“If you don’t like this Government – it won’t last forever.
“But if you leave the UK – that will be forever.
“Yes, the different parts of the UK don’t always see eye-to-eye. Yes, we need change – and we will deliver it.
“But to get that change, to get a brighter future, we don’t need to tear our country apart.”
Mr Cameron warned that a vote for independence would result in a ”painful divorce” for the UK.
He also reassured voters that a No vote would trigger “a major, unprecedented programme of devolution with additional powers for the Scottish Parliament”, without Scottish people losing the “UK pension, the UK pound and the UK passport”.
But the overwhelming message in his speech was an emotional plea to voters to stay.
The Prime Minister said: “At the end of the day, all the arguments of this campaign can be reduced to a single fact. We are better together.
“So as you reach your final decision, please, please don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be a proud Scot and a proud Brit.
“Please don’t lose faith in what this country is – and what we can be.
“Don’t forget what a great United Kingdom you are part of.
“Don’t turn your backs on what is the best family of nations in the world, and the best hope for your family in this world.
“So please, from all of us: Vote to stick together. Vote to stay. Vote to save our United Kingdom.”
In contrast to Mr Cameron’s speech from behind a lectern, Mr Salmond took to the streets of Stirling to attend a rally with thousands of Yes supporters.
The First Minster posed for selfies and shook hands with supporters as he made his way to a stage on King Street.
He praised the grassroots element of the Yes campaign and urged those present to continue working for a Yes vote in the final days of the campaign.
Earlier he visited Edinburgh Airport where he claimed Mr Cameron’s “fingerprints are all over a scaremongering” campaign by banks, businesses and leading retailers who have voiced their concerns over independence.
Mr Salmond said: ” The next time he (Mr Cameron) comes to Scotland it will not be to love-bomb or engage in desperate last-minute scaremongering, and following a Yes vote it will be to engage in serious post-referendum talks in the best interests of the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK, as pledged in the Edinburgh Agreement.
“From our side, those talks will be taken forward with a Team Scotland approach, involving people on a cross-party basis encompassing talents from across the spectrum.”
The First Minister met with business leaders including Brian Souter of Stagecoach and former William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping at the airport in a bid to highlight the economic opportunities a Yes vote could bring.
He added: “More and more of Scotland’s businesspeople and job-creators are backing a Yes vote because they know it is the only way we will get the economic powers we need.”
Mr Salmond claimed that supermarket bosses had been called to Downing Street before some made suggestions prices could rise if Scotland votes Yes. But he said it had backfired and been a “total disaster” for Number 10.
He said: “It’s quite clear and obvious from what has been revealed in the papers and what has been admitted by the Prime Minister’s spokespeople, that the supermarkets were called.
“Some people in the supermarkets made statements hostile to Scottish independence on the request of the Prime Minister. But for everyone that did there were many who didn’t, so for every Asda that got caught up in this, Tesco have made it absolutely clear they believe there is no truth in the suggestion prices would rise, they will conduct their business as business and leave politics to the politicians.”
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for “full disclosure” on any attempts by Westminster to pressurise business chiefs to speak out against a Yes vote.
She said: “The people of Scotland will not be bullied by the Westminster Tory government as it attempts to spread fear. With recent polling showing more and more people are waking up to the opportunities a Yes vote will bring we are confident that on Thursday they will seize the opportunity a Yes vote offers to build a better, fairer Scotland.”
Meanwhile Gordon Brown said new powers for Scotland in the event of a No vote will unite rather than divide the country.
He said three guarantees must be locked in: to guarantee new powers to the Scottish Parliament, to guarantee fairness to Scotland, and to guarantee t he power to spend more on the NHS if that is the wish of Scottish people.
“The guarantees that we now have pave the way to the future: a Great Scotland as a driving, successful and vibrant nation playing its full part in Great Britain,” he said.
“And I believe what I am saying this evening locks in a period of constitutional improvement and progress in preference to the risk-laden and dangerous change offered from an irreversible separation from which there is no going back.”
Responding to Mr Cameron’s speech, Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said: “David Cameron’s speech was the same litany of empty threats and empty promises we have come to expect from the No campaign – and he is the Prime Minister who has been orchestrating the campaign of ridiculous scaremongering being directed against Scotland.
“Instead of believing the word of a Tory prime minister on a very few more powers, the people of Scotland can get all the powers we need to build a better, fairer country by believing in ourselves and voting Yes.”
Meanwhile, Mr Salmond revealed that he spoke to newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch “a few days back”.
But the First Minister said he had no indication of whether Mr Murdoch’s titles, including the Scottish Sun, would support the Yes or No campaigns.
Asked whether he had spoken to Mr Murdoch, Mr Salmond told Channel 4 News: “I spoke to him on the phone a few days back.”
But when queried about which side Mr Murdoch’s newspapers would back, he said: “I’ve no idea, Mr Murdoch is well capable of making up his own mind.”