Scottish independence: David Cameron promises 'best of both worlds' if Scots reject 'Yes' campaign

PM says increased devolution of powers would follow a rejection of 'irreversible separation'

Deputy Political Editor

David Cameron has promised that more powers would still be devolved from London to Edinburgh even if Scottish voters reject independence in four months' time.

The Prime Minister's pledge, at the start of a two-day visit to Scotland, came as polls suggest that support for leaving the United Kingdom is slowly growing ahead of the referendum on 18 September although the opponents of independence remain in a clear lead.

Mr Cameron argued that Scots could have the “best of both worlds” if they rejected “irreversible separation” as they would win more influence over their daily lives while gaining the benefits of being within the UK.

He is understood to be considering the devolution of more powers over taxation, welfare policy, housing and the timing of elections if independence is rejected. The conclusions of a Conservative Party review into the issue are due to be announced by the end of the month.

The Prime Minister said: “Scotland knows it has a good level of devolution already and would have the opportunity for more devolution in the event of a No vote.”

He added: “I think I have a track record of showing respect of the nations of the United Kingdom and achieving devolution so that our family of nations can stay together and find a settlement with which all are comfortable.”

But Alex Salmond, the First Minister, retorted: “Nobody will believe Tory promises of more powers for Scotland, because the last time that happened, the only thing Scotland got was Thatcherism and 18 years of Tory governments we didn't vote for.”

He repeated his challenge to Mr Cameron to a face-to-face debate over the merits of independence, adding: “If you are entering a debate, you cannot be half in that debate. You have to be accountable, which is why he should agree to a one-to-one TV debate, First Minister to Prime Minister.”

Speaking at Walcheren Barracks in Glasgow, Mr Cameron argued that retaining the Union would safeguard Scotland's security.

“We have together one of the five top defence budgets in the world. We're building, here in Scotland, two of the most advanced aircraft carriers anywhere in the world,” he said.

“Of course Scotland could arrange its own armed forces, but think of the benefits of being part of this big organisation that is actually capable of keeping us all safer.”

Mr Cameron's visit came as the Better Together campaign faces accusations that it has adopted negative tactics and claims its leader, Alistair Darling, had been side-lined.

The Tory leader said he made no apology for highlighting the “risks of separation”, insisting: “It would be a dereliction of a politician's duty not to raise those things.”

He said Better Together was “bringing together an incredibly diverse range of politicians and voices who all share the same vision” and said he had every faith in Mr Darling.

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