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Alex Salmond has sought to reassure Scottish voters about the aftermath of a Yes vote in Thursday’s independence referendum, forecasting that a cross-party “Team Scotland” would work together on the new country’s transition.
With the result of the historic vote too close to call after a weekend of contradictory polls, both sides of the debate are trying to secure the support of the up to 500,000 people who are still undecided.
David Cameron, prime minister, will warn in a speech in Scotland on Monday that the vote is a “once and for all decision” for the Scots.
Alistair Darling, the former chancellor and leader of the Better Together campaign, likewise said that a Yes vote represented a “one-way ticket” in contrast with a general election.
“If things go wrong there is no way back” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. “I don’t want to see my country subjected to prolonged uncertainty . . . there will be years of wrangling.”
The leaders of the No campaign have repeatedly warned that Edinburgh and Scotland would not be able to have a currency union after independence, a key plank in their argument about the high risk of a schism.
But Mr Salmond, Scotland’s first minister and leader of the Scottish National party, told the programme that a Yes vote would “dissipate” such obstacles. “There would be common sense agreements for a common currency,” he said.
Seeking a conciliatory tone, he said that the day after a Yes vote he would “bring the country together” through a new “Team Scotland” on which Mr Darling and former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown would be welcome.
As for the risk of Scotland losing its position inside the EU, Mr Salmond argued that 18 months was a “realistic timetable” for negotiations with Brussels.
Mr Darling accused the SNP leader of “jumping the gun”, insisting that Better Together was still set to win the vote. He complained that the campaign had been the most negative he had seen in 35 years of political campaigning, with No politicians repeatedly shouted down by nationalist activists.
With just four days to go before the referendum, campaigning on both sides is set to reach its most intense phase.
On Sunday a survey for The Observer by Opinium, its first of the referendum campaign, found the pro-union campaign enjoying a six-point lead, with 53 per cent supporting No and 47 per cent for Yes when undecideds are excluded.
Yes activists were cheered by a sharply contrasting internet-based poll by ICM for the Sunday Telegraph that put Yes in the lead by 54 per cent to 46 per cent for No, again when “don’t knows” are stripped out.
John Curtice, Scotland’s highest profile psephologist, said the ICM result came with a “substantial health warning” given its smaller than usual sample size of just 705 respondents.
Until a fortnight ago, the No campaign was substantially ahead in the polls, but the result now seems to be going down to the wire.
In a poll for the Sunday Times, Panelbase put No at 51 per cent and Yes at 49, a one point swing to Yes since the company’s previous survey a week ago.
“The day after a Yes vote will be a day of celebration for the people, not reckoning for big companies drawn into the No campaign by Downing Street,” Mr Salmond said. “We will approach the success of Yes with magnanimity to all.”
Pro-union politicians had seized on a claim from Jim Sillars, a leftwing deputy leader of the SNP until the early 1990s but since then a fierce critic of the party’s leadership, that BP could face nationalisation after a Yes vote.
Mr Salmond, who shared a campaign platform with Mr Sillars last week, said his long-time rival had merely been expressing widely shared anger at Mr Cameron’s role in mustering businesses to oppose independence.
The “underhand Tory tactics” were backfiring, Mr Salmond said. “[Voters] are in no mood to be bullied by big Westminster government putting pressure on big business to intimidate the people of Scotland.”
Mr Cameron has led an effort to orchestrate companies to intervene in the referendum, evoking the war against Hitler in a rousing “call to arms” to more than 100 business leaders in Downing Street last Monday.
The chief executives of six telecoms companies operating in the UK on Saturday issued a highly unusual joint letter suggesting industry costs could rise if Scotland voted to become independent.
Pro-union campaigners are holding a “Let’s Stay Together” rally on Monday evening at Trafalgar Square in London