Edinburgh: Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday urged Scots not to rip apart a "family of nations," as he joined British party leaders in trying to reverse surging support for Scottish independence.
In what Scottish National Party (SNP) First Minister Alex Salmond described as a sign of "panicking", Cameron and opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband skipped their weekly parliamentary debate in London to hit the campaign trail north of the border.
There are only eight days to go before Scotland votes on whether to end the 300-year-old union and recent polls suggest the outcome is on a knife-edge.
"I would be heartbroken if this family of nations that we`ve put together and that we`ve done such amazing things together... was torn apart," Cameron told an event in Edinburgh.
His visit came as John Major, Britain`s prime minister from 1990-97, warned that a Scottish split would leave Britain "weaker" in every international body, from the European Union to the United Nations, and would increase London`s chances of leaving the EU altogether.
"The loss of Scotland would lead to the total reconfiguration of a United Kingdom that we have cherished for centuries," he wrote in the Times newspaper.Barely a month ago, there seemed little likelihood of victory for the "Yes" camp, but two polls since the weekend put it either ahead or in a dead heat with the "No" camp among voters who had made up their minds.
Confusing the picture, a new poll out Wednesday gave the "No" camp a six point lead, unchanged from two months previously.
The Survation/Daily Record poll put "No" on 53 percent and "Yes" on 47 percent, excluding undecideds.
After a shock poll put the "Yes" camp ahead on Sunday, the three biggest parties at Westminster on Tuesday backed a timetable unveiled by former prime minister Gordon Brown for handing more powers to the devolved Scottish government if it stayed in Britain.
This would start the day after a "No" vote in the referendum, which takes place on September 18.
Cameron`s job could be at risk if there is a "Yes" vote even though his campaign appearances have been limited because his Conservative party is deeply unpopular in Scotland.
Acknowledging this, he told voters the referendum was not about giving the "effing Tories... a kick," but about Scotland`s future.
Salmond accused Cameron of making a "last gasp, last ditch" attempt to save the union by coming to the Scottish capital.
"If the people of Scotland decide to vote for independence, then I would say David Cameron is in a pretty untenable position," he added.
"Their visit will backfire," added Michael Granados, an SNP campaigner attending a rally with Salmond in Edinburgh.
"Every time Westminster gets involved in this campaign, the vote swings more and more to the `Yes` side."The rapidly changing political landscape has spooked investors, and the pound on Wednesday was still struggling after hitting a 10-month low against the dollar on Monday.
Uncertainty remains over issues including what currency an independent Scotland would use and its place in the European Union.
The extent to which income from North Sea oil and gas reserves could support an independent Scotland has been a key topic in the referendum debate and energy giant BP said Wednesday the industry was "best served" by keeping the UK intact.
Meanwhile, pensions giant Standard Life, one of Scotland`s biggest firms, said it was making contingency plans to move some transactions south in the event of a "Yes" vote.
Leading business newspaper the Financial Times came out strongly in favour of a "No" vote in an editorial Wednesday.
"The union is something precious, not a bauble to be cast aside," it said. "In a week`s time, the Scots can vote with a sense of ambition to build on those successes."