Scotland is on the “cusp of making history” by voting for independence next week, its First Minister Alex Salmond has said.
Salmond said the eyes of the world are on Scotland, as he addressed an audience of international journalists in Edinburgh.
Vowing that Scots “will vote Yes” in six days’ time, he attacked the No camp for being in “terminal decline” the day after the leaders of three main English parties travelled north of the border in a bid to save the union.
Mr Salmond said: “Scotland is on the cusp of making history. The eyes of the world are upon Scotland. And what the world is seeing is an articulate, peaceful, energised debate.
“Scotland will vote Yes next Thursday and they will vote Yes because last minute, cobbled up promises from the No campaign which unravel at the slightest scrutiny will not fool anyone in this country and neither will the blatant bullying and intimidation of the Westminster Government.
“The No campaign is in terminal decline. In contrast a Yes vote is the opportunity of a lifetime. An opportunity to build a fairer more prosperous country.”
The latest polls show that after years of campaigning, the vote could be incredibly tight.
Polls put the ‘Yes’ side behind by around two or three percentage points, although a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times last weekend put the pro-independence campaign shocked the British establishment when it put the ‘Yes’ vote ahead by 51 per cent to 49 per cent.
However a rush of last-minute economic scare stories by Britain’s London-based media during the week appeared to have had the desired effect, and the ‘No’ camp remain favourites to win.
But there was derision in Scotland when the leaders of the three main London-based political parties suddenly flew north to campaign. In a bizarre intervention, all three also promised plans were afoot to give the Scottish Parliament more powers of devolved rule, if voters reject independence in next week’s referendum.
Cameron said he would be heart-broken if the “family of nations” was “torn apart”.
“This is not a decision about the next five years. This is a decision about the next century,” he said.
The official pro-union ‘Better Together’ campaign denied that it was being forced into panic measures to shore up support, but both Cameron and Miliband both missed Prime Minister’s Questions, normally the focus of the political week at Westminster.
“The message of this extraordinary, last minute reaction is that the Westminster elite are in a state of absolute panic as the ground in Scotland shifts under their feet,” Mr Salmond said.
He said it was Scotland’s people, not politicians, who are “re-invigorating and transforming” the political process during the debate over the country’s constitutional future.
An independent Scotland would succeed not only because of its wealth and natural resources, but also by building on the “energy, participation and involvement” seen in the campaign, he said.
Salmond said: “It has been a process of national empowerment. As a country we have re-discovered national self-confidence. As a nation, we are finding our voice.
“Our message to the people of Scotland is this - for the first time in Scottish history, on the 18th September we, the people, hold our destiny in our own hands.
“We shall not wake up on the 19th of September having given it away. We shall wake up knowing that we did the right thing.
“Wake up to a lifetime of feeling confident in ourselves and in our country.”
Meanwhile, several lodges of the Orange Order are set to travel to Scotland to march for a No vote in the upcoming independence referendum. A spokesman confirmed that ‘Grand Master’ Edward Stevenson would speak in favour of the union at the demonstration, which is being organised by Orangemen based in Scotland.
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said it was a “huge moment in history” for the Scottish people.
Speaking at a Sinn Fein party ‘away day’ in County Louth, Mr McGuinness said he noted the offer by the English political leaders to offer increased devolution to the Scottish people.
“If Scotland gets, in the context of there being a ‘No’ vote, power over social welfare and the ability to decide their own social welfare payment rates, then that has big implications for us and I think that I would hope that we can benefit from the outcome of that.”
But he said the Scottish people should be allowed to make their own decision free from outside interference.
“Whatever way it goes I think it will have a profound impact on the situation in Ireland, and specifically in the North of Ireland, particularly in relation to the battle that we’re having with the British government at this time over the swingeing cuts they have brought in.”