Scottish independence: Campaigns seize on Scotland powers pledge
Both sides in the Scottish independence referendum debate have seized on a pledge by the three main Westminster parties to devolve more powers.
The pledge, signed by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, also promises equitable sharing of resources and preserving the Barnett funding formula.
The "Yes" campaign described it as an "insult" to voters and asked why it had taken so long to offer.
Better Together said it was "a vision around which Scotland can unite".
In other developments:
- Three new polls, by Opinium for the Daily Telegraph, ICM for the Scotsman, and Survation for the Daily Mail suggested the "No" vote held a slender lead going into the final day of campaigning. With undecided voters excluded, all three polls suggested a lead for No of 52% to 48%.
- The full breakdown of the Opinium poll was 49% for No, 45% for Yes and 6% undecided, while the ICM survey was 45% No, 41% Yes and 14% undecided. The Survation poll had Yes 44%, No 48% and Undecided 8%.
- Former US President Bill Clinton has urged Scots to vote No, saying "Unity with maximum self-determination sends a powerful message to a world torn by identity conflicts".
- About 1,500 pro-independence supporters bearing Saltire flags, badges and blue campaign T-shirts took part in a rally in the heart of Glasgow.
- Labour leader Ed Miliband and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown are on the campaign trail for Better Together. Mr Brown accused the SNP of "perpetrating a lie" about protecting the NHS. Mr Miliband cancelled a walkabout in Edinburgh after being mobbed by pro and anti independence supporters.
- Spain's Europe Minister told the BBC that an independent Scotland would have to wait years to join the European Union. Inigo Mendez de Vigo also claimed during an interview on Newsnight that a post-Yes Scotland would have to adopt the Euro if it was an EU member. The Yes campaign wants to keep sterling, and has insisted that Scotland would be welcomed into the EU after independence.
- The firm which operates Scotland's two nuclear power plants, EDF Energy, has said there is ongoing uncertainty about the impact of independence on the power sector.
- Confidential papers passed to the BBC suggest a radical cost-saving plan will be implemented in the Scottish NHS after the referendum.
- Business leaders have called for unity on Friday regardless of the outcome of the referendum. The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said, whatever the result, the country must work together to drive Scotland forward.
- Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Finance Secretary John Swinney have met apprentices at Steel Engineering in Renfrew. Ms Sturgeon said independence would allow Scotland's economy to grow by securing job creating powers.
- Social media giant Facebook has seen 10 million interactions concerning the Scottish independence referendum in a five-week period.
- Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson has given his backing for a 'Yes' vote on Thursday. His declaration comes more than a week after the group "Footballers for No" spoke out.
The pledge signed by the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem leaders appears on the front of the Daily Record newspaper.
The first part of the agreement promises "extensive new powers" for the Scottish Parliament "delivered by the process and to the timetable agreed" by the three parties.
The second says the leaders agree that "the UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably".
The third "categorically states" that the final say on funding for the NHS will lie with the Scottish government "because of the continuation of the Barnett allocation for resources, and the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise revenue".
The Barnett formula is the method used to determine the distribution of public spending around the UK.
However, in an interview with BBC Radio 4's World Tonight programme, Lord Barnett, who set up the system in 1978 when he was chief secretary to the Treasury, said it was "grossly unfair" and repeated his call for it be scrapped.
First Minister Alex Salmond told the BBC's David Dimbleby the plans for more powers for the Scottish Parliament were: "Nothing like home rule, it's nothing like Devo Max, it's not even Devo-plus.
"It is actually an insult to the intelligence of the people of Scotland.
"To re-hash these proposals last gasp in the campaign and hope beyond hope that people'll think it's anything substantial. It is not."
Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, speaking for Better Together, denied the powers pledge had come too late in the referendum debate.
He said: "Here in Scotland, we have been talking about these powers for many months. What we are saying today is we can have the best of both worlds. We can have a stronger Scottish parliament but with the strength, stability and security of the United Kingdom.
"That pledge, that vow that we can have faster, safer, better change is actually a vision around which Scotland can unite."
He added: "I don't think there's any embarrassment about placing policies on the front page of papers with just days to go. I think the 'Yes' campaign are struggling.
"The economic risks suddenly became very real last week, and at the same time we are offering what I believe most of us here in Scotland want, which is faster, safer and better change."
Mr Alexander dismissed "Yes" campaign claims that independence is the only way to get the government Scotland votes for.
The pledges were first outlined by the former prime minister, Gordon Brown, and endorsed by the three main unionist parties in Scotland.
Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland Political Editor
Perhaps it might help if we took a little look at the pledge of more powers set out by the pro Union parties today.
The one that was trailed last night by Gordon Brown and covered on the telly and the wireless.
Firstly, it would appear to confirm the prime minister's acknowledgement that any notion of deferring the issue of more powers - conceptually if not yet in agreed detail - has been abandoned.
No more talk of settling the question of independence then turning to more powers. The pro-Union parties have seemingly concluded that they must be more upfront, now, about their plans.
On the penultimate day of campaigning ahead of Thursday's referendum, the "Yes" side was focusing on jobs and the NHS, while the "No" side promised change and a "better Britain".
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Finance Secretary John Swinney met apprentices at an engineering firm in Renfrew where they argued that independence would allow Scotland's economy to grow, creating jobs and opportunities.
Ms Sturgeon said: "In just two days' time, polling stations will open and voters across the country will hold Scotland's future in their hands. Independence is our opportunity to build a better future - creating jobs and protecting our NHS.
"Only a 'Yes' vote will ensure we have full powers over job creation - enabling us to create more and better jobs across the country. So instead of almost 40,000 young people leaving Scotland each year as is currently the case, there will be more opportunities for our young people here at home.
"As part of the UK, our NHS budget faces knock-on impacts of the privatisation, cuts and charging agenda that is ripping the health service south of the border to bits. With a 'Yes' vote we can ensure our NHS is protected for future generations by enshrining it in our written constitution."
Robert Peston, BBC Economic editor
Here is the bad news if you haven't made up your mind whether to vote for Scotland to become independent - economic analysis cannot give you the answer.
That is partly because this dismal science is not capable of giving wholly (and sometimes even partly) accurate forecasts about the future prosperity of nations.
Look at the case of a comparably sized small country, Ireland. A decade ago many economists (and others) saw it as a rip-roaring success, that had become considerably richer on a per-head basis than the UK.
Then three years ago it looked like a total basket case, as its property sector and banks imploded.
Today it can be seen as a model of how a determined small country can reconstruct its economy in adversity, in stark contrast to the inertia in a bigger country such as Italy.
Read more from Robert Peston's blog here.
Speaking at a Better Together campaign event in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused the SNP of "perpetrating a lie" about protecting the NHS with independence.
Mr Brown said: "I think people are going to come to the conclusion that the change they really want is to have a Scottish Parliament as part of the UK, not the change that the SNP want, which is the chaos of a separate state.
"The NHS lie of the Scottish National Party has been exposed.
"The Scottish Parliament can keep the NHS in public hands with its existing powers."
He added: "If the SNP continue to say they are powerless to protect the NHS in Scotland, let them make way for a Labour government in Scotland and we will protect the NHS."
Meanwhile, the BBC's Norman Smith said: "There have been chaotic scenes in Edinburgh city centre as the Labour leader Ed Miliband attempted to do a walkabout amongst shoppers.
"Mr Miliband was surrounded by a melee of pro and anti independence supporters as he tried to walk through the St James' shopping centre in Edinburgh.
"Planned interviews with the media had to be abandoned amidst the scrum. Mr Miliband played down the scenes as he struggled to meet any voters. He eventually had to be escorted out of a rear exit."