Gordon Brown made a dramatic intervention in the Scottish independence battle last night as he set out moves to rush through new powers to Holyrood if next week’s referendum rejects the break-up of the United Kingdom.
The former Labour Prime Minister was drafted in by his political opponents after a surge in support for separation left the outcome of September 18’s vote too close to call.
The trend was confirmed by a poll published today which produced a dead heat between the Yes and No camps.
The new uncertainty over the result sent the pound plunging and wiped hundreds of millions off the stock market value of major Scottish firms.
Yes Scotland reacted with contempt to Mr Brown’s move, claiming it was fresh evidence of the “utter panic and desperation” within the No camp as it faltered in the polls.
Scottish Independence: For and against
Scottish Independence: For and against
1/23 Vivienne Westwood
YES: “I hate England. I like Scotland because somehow I think they are better than we are. They are more democratic.”
2/23 Bob Geldof
NO: "This argument needs to be had among us all, you can't selfishly resolve it amongst yourselves by taking an easy opt-out clause."
3/23 Leonard Cohen
UNDECIDED: “People are trying to make their lives significant,” he said. “[They] are engaged in a struggle for self-respect and significance.”
4/23 James McAvoy
UNDECIDED: “If you vote for continued unification or independence there is no protest vote – that’s it. And that could be it for decades, for centuries. There’s no going back from it."
5/23 Bill Clinton
NO: “Unity with maximum self-determination sends a powerful message to a world torn by identity conflicts that it is possible to respect our differences while living and working together. This is the great challenge of our time. The Scots can show us how to meet it.”
6/23 George Galloway
NO: “There will be havoc if you vote Yes in September. Havoc in Edinburgh and throughout the land and you will break the hearts of many others too… I know which side I’m on. I’m with JK Rowling. Just say No.”
7/23 David Beckham
NO: “We want to let you know how very much we value our relationship and friendship. Of course regardless of your decision that will never change, however, my sincere hope is that you will vote to renew our historic bond which has been such a success over the centuries and the envy of the entire world. What unites us is much greater than what divides us. Let's stay together.”
8/23 David Bowie
NO: "Scotland stay with us"
9/23 Eddie Izzard
NO: "You can be Scottish, you can be British and you can be European. We can have that. “I say have the parliament, have the more power, but be with us. Like David Bowie said, ‘Stay with us Scotland’ and I’m saying the same – don’t go."
10/23 Frankie Boyle
YES: "It’s an ‘aye’ (for Independence) from me, man."
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11/23 Andy Murray
NO: "I started competing for Great Britain when I was 11. A lot of people forget that. I didn't like it when Salmond got the Scottish flag up at Wimbledon"
12/23 The Proclaimers
YES: 'Scotland has huge national resources, with its people, its wave power – all the possibilities that this country has...we need to take charge of our own affairs'
13/23 Susan Boyle
NO: "I am a proud, patriotic Scot, passionate about my heritage and my country. But I am not a nationalist."
14/23 Chris Hoy
NO: "It will weaken the British team obviously if Scotland went separately, and it would be harder for the Scottish athletes, initially, to establish themselves in a new training environment, with new coaches, with a different environment altogether."
15/23 Alan Cumming
YES: "The evidence is clear - in the past 15 years we have become stronger economically, socially, culturally and globally. The world is waiting for us and I know Scotland is ready."
16/23 Emma Thompson
NO: "Why insist on building a new border between human beings in an ever-shrinking world where we are still struggling to live alongside each other?"
Carlo Allegri, Reuters
17/23 Billy Bragg
YES: Independence would "create a new settlement that puts people before profit. Those in England who believe that our own society needs to be rebalanced along similar lines should wake up and join the debate"
18/23 Marcus Brigstocke
NO: "If Scotland go their own way (based on fingers crossed, f**k the Tories, William Wallace bollocks it'll be a damn shame. Still wish 'em well"
19/23 Rod Stewart
NO: "I'd hate to see the union broken after all these years. It's always been a spiritual home - but as I don't live there I shouldn't comment on independence. If it's good for the Scots I'm happy."
20/23 Sean Connery
YES: "As a Scot and as someone with a lifelong love for both Scotland and the arts, I believe the opportunity of independence is too good to miss"
21/23 Al Kennedy
NO: "Salmond has the warm potato head of a man who is Scottish and – we hope – no threat"
22/23 Annie Lennox
YES: "There is an opportunity for something innovative and visionary. Scotland could have some kind of new, ethical, visionary stance and it could take on some fresh ideas. That could be amazing, really amazing."
YES: "They must cut ties with the United King-dumb. I love Scotland, and I love the Scottish spirit and they do not need Westminster in the least."
David Cameron and George Osborne came under fire from their own party for their response to the growing doubts over the survival of the United Kingdom.
There was also surprise that there are no plans for Mr Cameron to hit the campaign trail in Scotland this week despite the enormity of what is at stake. Only William Hague is scheduled to go.
The choice of the former Prime Minister to detail the devolution plans is also a rebuff for Alistair Darling, the head of Better Together, who was mauled by Alex Salmond in a televised debate last month.
The fresh uncertainty over the referendum result sent the pound plunging and wiped billions off the stock market value of major Scottish firms.
In a speech last night in Midlothian, Mr Brown disclosed his timetable for the implementation of a “modern form of Scottish Home Rule” following a No vote. It is being also being backed by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.
Under the plan, which was first signalled by Mr Osborne at the weekend, details of fresh devolution of tax and welfare powers would be agreed by late November and legislation drafted next January.
Mr Brown said: “A No vote on 18 September will not be an end point, but the starting gun for action on 19 September, when straight away we will kick off a plan to deliver the enhanced devolution that we want.”
The choice of the former Prime Minister to detail the devolution plans is a rebuff for Alistair Darling, the head of Better Together, who was mauled by Alex Salmond in a televised debate last week.
A Downing Street source said: “The Prime Minister very much welcomes Gordon Brown’s initiative. It reflects the discussions that have been going on within the parties in Scotland.”
But one senior Tory MP spoke of his dismay over his party’s tactics over the last week as the polls narrowed. He The Independent: “Lots of people are saying we should have deferred this offer until after the result. It smacks of panic and plays into the SNP’s hands.”
The discontent in the No camp emerged as the second opinion poll in 48 hours showed it is losing ground while the Yes campaign is gaining support, meaning there is now nothing to divide the two sides with just over a week to go until the vote.
A survey by TNS published today found that 41 per cent of people who said they would definitely vote on 18 September were in favour of independence – with exactly the same proportion in favour of staying in the UK. This represents a three per cent gain for the Yes campaign and a five per cent loss for the No side in the space of a month. When don’t knows are excluded, the two sides are locked on 50 per cent each.
The poll also confirmed that the number of women backing independence appears to be rising, going from 27 per cent to 35 per cent, while female support for No has dropped from 49 per cent to 41 per cent over the same period.
Tom Costley, the head of TNS Scotland, said the poll showed a “remarkable shift in voting intentions” which meant that the result of the referendum was now “too close to call”. According to the research, around 600,000 voters may still not have made up their minds, with 18 per cent saying they remained undecided but intended to vote.
The campaign for Scottish independence dismissed the promises of greater devolution from Westminster. “The No campaign’s empty talk of more powers smacks of utter panic and desperation as they lose their lead in the polls,” said Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland.
“The people of Scotland will not trust the Tories to deliver powers that fall far short of what we need. The sure fire way to achieve the full range of powers Scotland needs to build a fairer society and more prosperous economy is to vote Yes a week on Thursday.”
Lord McConnell, the former Scottish First Minister, said the new powers and timetable offered by Mr Brown may not be enough to prevent a Yes vote and called for the main Westminster parties to promise proper constitutional reform.
Writing in The Independent today, he said: “We also need a promise of change in the way the UK is governed, not just a timetable for more powers at Holyrood. We need a firm commitment by all three UK party leaders to a Constitutional Convention to clean up and reinvigorate our democracy and genuinely decentralise power and energy from London and the South East.”
Meanwhile, the Yes campaign received another boost last night as Rupert Murdoch’s Scottish Sun appeared on the brink of declaring its support for independence. Andrew Neil, one of the Australian media tycoon’s former editors at the Sunday Times, claimed: “He’s very close to putting the [Scottish] Sun behind Salmond and Yes.”
Scotland leaving the United Kingdom would be a "devastating blow" to Western solidarity at a crucial moment, according to a former Secretary General of Nato. Lord Robertson said a Yes vote would impact on international security as he joined Labour MP Jim Murphy in Edinburgh to campaign against independence.