George Osborne has promised Scotland fresh powers if it rejects independence in this month’s referendum, but said Britain will not share the pound if the union is dissolved.
Westminster, panicked by the recent upsurge in support for the independence movement, is offering Scotland greater autonomy, including more tax powers, spending powers, and control over the welfare state.
YouGov polling today revealed that the pro-independence campaign is ahead by 51% to 49% when undecided voters are excluded.
The result represents a drastic turnaround from last month, when it was reported that the Better Together campaign enjoyed a 22-point lead. The Yes vote has increased by four points this week, with the No dropping by the same number.
"A two-point gap is too small for us to call the outcome. But the fact that the contest is too close to call is itself remarkable, as Better Together seemed to have victory in the bag," YouGov President Peter Kellner wrote on his blog.
Appearing on BBC's Andrew Marr show, Chancellor George Osborne said: "You will see in the next few days a plan of action to give more powers to Scotland. More tax powers, more spending powers, more plans for powers over the welfare state.
"That will be put into effect - the timetable for delivering that will be put into effect the moment there is a No vote in the referendum. The clock will be ticking for delivering those powers, and then Scotland will have the best of both worlds.”
But he also insisted that if Scotland were to opt for independence then they would under no circumstances be able to use the pound.
“No ifs, no buts, we will not share the pound if Scotland separates from the UK.”
“[Voters] should be in no doubt about the consequences of this decision - one of which is that Scotland will not be sharing the pound as an independent country with the rest of the UK if the separatists win the vote."
The Yes campaign claims that Osborne’s pledges and threats represent more empty promises from a government “engulfed in panic”.
Nicola Sturgeon, The Scottish Deputy First Minister, said: "I think the No campaign is missing the fact that this campaign in Scotland has moved beyond any place where people can have the wool pulled over their eyes.
"If the No campaign parties had any serious intention of delivering substantial new powers for Scotland, then why has it taken until 10 days before polling day, with a poll showing Yes in the lead, for them to come up with this?”
She claimed that it “increasingly looks as if the No campaign think people in Scotland are daft”.
"If people want the powers we need to protect our public services, protect the health service, ensure that we can create jobs, grow our economy, protect the vulnerable through a decent social security system, the only way to get that is to vote for the powers a Yes vote will deliver.
Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael sought to play down the significance of the latest poll findings.
The leader of the pro-union Better Together campaign told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics: "I have said all along that this was a wide open contest and that nobody should be taking a single vote, let alone the outcome for granted."
He added: "The only poll that actually matters is the one on September 18 and that's the one on which I am completely focused."
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies