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Scottish nationalists have seized on the latest report of strains in the campaign against independence, saying a Daily Mail story claiming Better Together leader Alistair Darling had been sidelined showed the “No” camp was in “disarray”.

But Mr Darling and other pro-union politicians dismissed the report as false, saying the former UK chancellor was in charge and would stay that way until the September 18 referendum.

“Alistair Darling very much alive and well and in charge of a campaign that had a 20 per cent lead in latest poll,” tweeted Jim Murphy, Labour MP. “Daily Mail story is total fiction.”

The Daily Mail said Mr Darling had been “effectively dumped” in favour of Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary.

Though dismissed by an aide to Mr Alexander as “completely untrue”, the story was a boost for the Scottish National party with support for independence still trailing despite a narrowing of the polls in recent months. Better Together was descending “into chaos”, the SNP said.

Mr Alexander and other leading Labour politicians have taken a bigger role in Better Together operations and events, but the campaign said this did not suggest an exit for Mr Darling.

"As we approach the final stages of the campaign, Alistair is bringing more and more people into the team. This is just what you would expect,” a Better Together spokesperson said.

David Cameron, the UK prime minister, has called in the past for colleagues to “stop complaining about Better Together and just get on with campaigning”. 

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