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Gordon Brown delivered an impassioned defence of the UK on Wednesday as the former prime minister called on Scots to reject independence in Thursday’s referendum.
As campaigners from both sides spent the final day ahead of the vote trying to convince the hundreds of thousands of voters who say they are still undecided, Mr Brown urged what he called the silent majority “to be silent no more” and to “let no narrow nationalism split us asunder”.
“Have confidence, stand up and be counted tomorrow,” he told the final Better Together rally in Glasgow. “Say to your friends, for reasons of solidarity, sharing, pride in Scotland, the only answer is vote No.
“What sort of message would we send out to the rest of the world, we who pioneered a partnership between nations, if tomorrow we said we’re going to give up on sharing, throw our idea of solidarity into the dust?” he said.
“This is not the Scotland I know.”
The latest opinion poll, commissioned by STV and released late Wednesday afternoon, showed just a 2 percentage point lead for the No camp, putting it on 51 per cent among the voters who have decided, with the “Don’t knows” at 5 per cent. The poll by Ipsos-Mori represents a 7 percentage point gain in support for the Yes camp since its last poll in early August.
The latest polls suggest an even narrower lead for the pro-union campaign than the results of three opinion polls on Tuesday night. Among those who have decided, the No camp was 4 percentage points ahead in all three polls, but the Yes side has gained ground. They also showed that between 6 per cent and 14 per cent of the 4.3m eligible voters have yet to make up their minds.
Financial markets analysts said traders were pricing in only a small chance of a Yes vote. “Not a single one of our clients is preparing for a Scottish exit,” said Valentin Marinov, strategist at Citigroup.
The pound was little changed on Wednesday, up 0.2 per cent at $1.6309 in early evening trading.
Both sides are predicting a high turnout. Mary Pitcaithly, the chief counting officer, told the BBC on Wednesday that about 80 per cent of the 790,000 postal votes had been returned.
Alistair Darling, leader of the No campaign, told the Glasgow rally that Scots who wanted certainty should vote No.
“If you have such a momentous decision to take, you need to have certainty. And what is very clear at the end of this long campaign is that from the nationalist side there is no certainty at all.”
The pro-independence campaign holds its final rally in Perth on Wednesday evening, but in the morning dozens of Yes campaigners, brandishing Saltire flags and blue and white balloons, lined the steps outside the Royal Concert Hall in the centre of Glasgow. They were addressed by comedian and Yes campaigner Elaine C Smith.
“Yes, yes, yes,” chanted the mixed-aged crowd, some of whom had been invited to take part in the rally by text as little as a couple of hours beforehand.
“I’ve never seen Glasgow like this,” said Ricky Ross, the Deacon Blue singer. “There’s an excitement about [music] gigs, but this is different because everyone’s involved.”
“It’s electric,” was how Nicholas Stewart, a 37-year-old train driver from Coatbridge, described the atmosphere in Glasgow in recent days.
Around the corner, the No campaign had set up a modest stall on a less fashionable stretch of Sauchiehall Street.
The volunteers tended to be older – and meeker – than their Yes counterparts. Passers-by tended to shun the fliers, although many gave brief words of support or at least a nod and a smile.
Alex Salmond, head of the Yes campaign, was confident of success. “The central mistake that the No campaign has made is to tell the people of Scotland that the land of Adam Smith is not capable of running its own matter financially,” he told the BBC.
He dismissed the new powers offered by Westminster political leaders as “the same package that was offered last spring and was repackaged in desperation”.
Asked what currency an independent Scotland would use, Mr Salmond said it would be the pound. If the Yes side won, “you would find Westminster politicians singing a very different tune” about the terms of a currency agreement to their current opposition, he said.
Earlier, Prime Minister David Cameron told the Times that while the tightness of the race was keeping him awake at night, he had no regrets over how he had handled the referendum and had been right not to offer a third choice on the ballot paper of further devolution.
“I had a choice. You either say ‘Yes, you can have that referendum, and here’s a way of making it legal, decisive and fair’, or I could have taken the approach of just putting my head in the sand and saying, ‘No, you can’t have a referendum’,” he was quoted as saying.
Metres away from the rally stood a statue of Donald Dewar, a strident supporter of the union, looking impassively into the distance. A Yes badge had been stuck on his lapel.
Mr Cameron’s joint promise with Ed Miliband, the Labour party leader, and Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, to give more powers to Scotland has angered many English Conservative MPs.
One said Mr Cameron would “definitely face a vote of no-confidence” from Tory backbenchers if Scotland voted Yes on Thursday. “Our whole campaign has been a shambles,” the MP said.