In a rare intervention into the political arena, the Queen has urged Scots to “think very carefully” before they vote in Thursday’s independence referendum.
Speaking after a Sunday service near her Balmoral estate in Scotland, the monarch was careful not to endorse either side but told a small group outside the church: “Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future.”
Buckingham Palace refused to elaborate, insisting the Queen was constitutionally impartial and above politics, but the No campaign privately welcomed the comment. Usually the Queen does not speak to well-wishers when going to and leaving the Sunday service.
David Beckham, former England football captain, lent his voice to the Better Together campaign, publishing an open letter in which he urged Scots to maintain the union that is “the envy of the entire world”. He used the 2012 Olympics, for which he was part of the team that secured London’s bid, as an example of Britain’s success.
“We worked together to bring the greatest sporting event of them all to our nation and I was thrilled to watch us competing together against the world,” he said, adding that he experienced equal joy seeing Scottish athletes win as he did the English ones.
David Cameron will emphasise the final, “once-and-for-all” nature of the vote in a speech in Scotland on Monday warning that a Yes vote would be permanent. “We must be very clear that there’s no going back from this,” he will say.
Alex Salmond likewise vowed that Scotland will not get a second chance to vote for independence for another generation. There would not be another such vote for at least another 18 years, he said, even if his Yes campaign for independence loses by a whisker in Thursday’s contest.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity, perhaps even a once in a lifetime opportunity for Scotland,” he said.
The comments may help to allay concerns that in the event of a No vote Mr Salmond would seek another mandate.
A poll of Scottish companies for the Financial Times has found an overwhelmingly negative sentiment towards the prospect of independence, with 85 per cent of respondents saying they might move their corporate domicile to England.
Opinion polls over the weekend suggested the decision is still on a knife-edge with just four days to go before polling day.
Almost half of Scottish voters do not believe the promise from Westminster that Holyrood will win fresh new powers in the event of a No vote, according to a survey by Opinium.
Asked what their main concern would be if Scotland remained in the UK, 47 per cent said it was the Westminster parties not giving the Scottish Parliament more powers.
That level of distrust is striking given that the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders have signed a joint declaration for the further transfer of tax and spending powers.
Mr Cameron will seek to allay those fears in his speech, saying that a No vote would be the “best of both worlds” for the Scots. “Voting No is not a vote for no change,” he will promise.
Mark Diffley, director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said about 10 per cent of voters – close to half a million – were still in neither camp. “The undecided voters are still a little more likely to be women, that has been a theme all through this,” he said.
In an attempt to win around floating voters, Mr Salmond predicted that the British government would drop its resistance to sharing the pound with an independent Scotland. “There would be common sense agreements for a common currency,” he said.
But Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign, said Mr Salmond was performing a “premature victory lap”. He said it was extraordinary that the nationalists had failed to answer basic questions about crucial issues such as pensions, jobs, currency and public spending.
A slew of celebrities, organised by broadcaster Dan Snow and comedian Eddie Izzard, are hosting a “Let’s Stay Together” rally at Trafalgar Square in London, on Monday at 6pm.
Their aim, according to a post on the group’s Facebook page, is “to show Scotland we care”.
“Let’s Stay Together brings together people of all political persuasions, from every community and corner of Britain, from all backgrounds and interests, to express how much we value the United Kingdom and Scotland as part of it,” it says.
Among the more than 200 stars who have given their support are the singer Sting, actress Dame Judi Dench and Olympic sailor Sir Ben Ainslie.
Additional reporting by John Aglionby