Scramble to 'save' UK after Scotland referendum shock

The stunning results of the survey put the “Yes” campaign two points ahead after months of a strong lead by unionists

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LONDON // Supporters of the United Kingdom began a campaign on Monday to stop Scotland voting for independence in next week’s referendum after an opinion poll put the separatists ahead for the first time.

The stunning results of the survey put the “Yes” campaign two points ahead after months of a strong lead by unionists, causing the pound to slump to a 10-month low on fears that a break-up of the 300-year-old union was now a real possibility.

The leader of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, said other polls put the unionist campaign ahead but admitted it was “clearly very tight” ahead of the September 18 vote.

“We’re in the position now where every voter in Scotland could potentially tip the balance in this referendum. But I am confident that we will win,” the former finance minister said.

The unionists are planning this week to publish a “plan of action” to give more powers to Scotland, detailing a timetable and process to give further tax and spending powers to the devolved government in Edinburgh.

Senior politicians from the opposition Labour party, including former prime minister Gordon Brown, also hit the campaign trail on Monday amid signs that growing support among their voters for independence is driving the narrowing of the polls.

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, the leader of the pro-independence Scottish Nationalist Party, warned of “panic” in the unionist camp.

His deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, said on Monday that the pro-independence campaign was “still ... the underdog in the referendum, but there’s no doubt the momentum is towards ‘Yes’. We will continue to work flat out over the remaining ten days of the campaign”.

* Agence France-Presse