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Nick Clegg has urged Scots to take the “guaranteed safe path to more powers” over the “uncertain leap” into independence as pro-unionist politicians stepped up their efforts on Monday to counter a surge in support for the independence campaign.

The deputy prime minister implored the Scots to choose staying with the UK and said he believed with “every fibre of my being we will all be worse off” if Scotland votes for independence on September 18.

Mr Clegg said he wanted to focus on the positive case for retaining a family of nations but he also warned Scots they risked a future of higher unemployment, higher taxation and lower spending on public services should it chose to leave.

The three main political parties will this week set out a process for devolving powers to Scotland amid alarm over a Sunday Times/YouGov poll that gave the independence campaign a narrow lead.

The Liberal Democrat party leader said all the main parties were committed to further devolution and said Scots could enjoy greater powers while also remaining in the UK.

“Scotland isn’t choosing between an unchanging status quo and the change of independence, but choosing between the uncertain leap of independence, and a guaranteed safe path to more powers – delivering more in Scotland but with the back-up of the broad shoulders of the UK,” he said.

“An unstoppable process has already begun, if the Scottish people choose No, to guarantee that a further substantial transfer of powers will occur. Change is on its way.

“What will be discussed or announced later this week is really about the process of and the timetable by which that consensual arrangement can unfold, leading as quickly as possible to new powers being enjoyed by the Scottish government.”

He added that it was “not in the gift” of the main parties to impose a new devolution settlement for the people of Scotland. “That would be wholly wrong,” he said.

The Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems agree that further powers should be transferred to Holyrood in the event of a No vote but have not agreed the exact details of the powers to be transferred.

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