With two days of fevered campaigning left before Scotland votes in a referendum on independence, the leaders of the three main British political parties renewed a pledge on Tuesday to grant Scots “extensive new powers” if they reject secession.
The pledge, in a letter published in The Daily Record newspaper in Scotland, came a day after Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain offered Scots a different message, telling them that if they vote for independence on Thursday “there’s no going back from this, no rerun.”
“If Scotland votes yes, the U.K. will split, and we will go our separate ways forever,” he told an audience of Scottish supporters of his Conservative Party. “Independence would not be a trial separation, it would be a painful divorce.”
The combination of threat and promise reflected the deepening concerns among the political elite in London at what pro-independence campaigners call the gathering momentum of their efforts to withdraw from the 307-year-old union.
Opinion polls in the final days have shown the gap between the two camps narrowing dramatically, eroding the early lead taken by Scots who favor remaining in the United Kingdom along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The latest polls suggest that the outcome is now too close to call.
One survey earlier this month put the “yes” campaign, led by Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, slightly ahead for the first time, prompting the political elite in London to promise to endow Scotland with greater powers if voters say no to independence.