ALEX Salmond has said he believes Scotland will not face another referendum on independence if the nation votes No on Thursday.
The First Minister said Scots face a “once in a generation” opportunity in three days’ time after a series of weekend polls suggested the vote to determine Scotland’s future is neck and neck.
One survey indicated that the pro-independence side had a lead of eight points – the reverse of a poll commissioned by the opposition Better Together group.
Mr Salmond told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that he would accept the narrowest of victories, even if the nation was split. He said: “Harold Wilson famously [said] one vote is enough in a referendum but we’re not aiming to win by one vote, we’re aiming to achieve a substantial majority if we can.”
He added: “If you remember that previous constitutional referendum in Scotland – there was one in 1979 and then the next one was 1997. That’s what I mean by a political generation.”
Asked if he could pledge not to bring back another referendum if the Yes campaign does not win on Thursday – Mr Marr suggested this meant in the next 20 years – Mr Salmond replied: “That’s my view. My view is this is a once in a generation, perhaps even a once in a lifetime, opportunity for Scotland.”
Referendum campaign fever seized Scotland over the weekend, with tens of thousands of people attending rallies and knocking on doors across the country.
The Queen made a surprise intervention yesterday with an appeal for people to “think very carefully” as she met worshippers after attending church in Crathie near her Royal Deeside home, Balmoral Castle. Prime Minister David Cameron will head north for a keynote speech in Scotland today, just four days after his last appearance on the campaign trail.
He is expected to issue a stark warning to waverers that there could be “no going back” if they chose to “break up our family of nations”.
And hundreds of pro-independence campaigners protested outside BBC Scotland’s Glasgow headquarters over perceived bias towards the No camp in the corporation’s coverage.
Several weekend polls showed a slim lead for the No camp, with No at 50.6 per cent to 49.4 per cent according to Panelbase, and 53 per cent to 47 per cent in research by Opinium.
An ICM poll put the Yes camp in front by 54 per cent to 46 per cent, although it had a smaller than usual sample size of 705 instead of 1,000.
A Survation poll for Better Together found 54 per cent plan to vote No while 46 per cent intend to say Yes, factoring out undecided voters. The latest “poll of polls” has No on 51 per cent and Yes on 49 per cent.
Meanwhile, a survey of 5,000 adults for Good Morning Britain found more than half of people polled living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland do not want Scotland to become independent. It found 53 per cent of respondents outside Scotland do not want the country to leave the UK, compared with 21 per cent who do.
The Prime Minister echoed Mr Salmond’s belief it would be a long time before another vote on Scottish independence is staged. “It has been a long campaign and I don’t think people will be contemplating another one straight after this,” Mr Cameron said.
Admitting that the race for Scotland’s future is poised to go down to the wire, he added: “I hope this will mean people who thought they could leave it to others to vote to save our United Kingdom will now come out and vote, because this is not a decision for five years.”
Mr Cameron said the timetable unveiled by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week to deliver more Holyrood powers will send a strong signal to voters that a No vote would lead to meaningful change.
He said: “What has happened since 1997 is that we have not reached that resting place because, in spite of the acts of devolution and acts of further devolution, it hasn’t quite got to the right place.”
The Prime Minister added that the result of the changes “to raise and spend more money through the Scottish Parliament” will resolve the situation.
Mr Brown yesterday revealed that the date of a House of Commons debate on increased powers for the Scottish Parliament has been set. The timetable he unveiled last week, in the event of a No vote, has been endorsed by the pro-union parties at Westminster and Holyrood.
Mr Brown was on the campaign trail yesterday addressing the Royal British Legion in Glenrothes, Fife, and later a 1,000-strong rally in Glasgow.
He said: “I have now been allocated an adjournment debate in the House of Commons for Thursday, 16 October 2014, which will set in motion our promise of delivering new powers to the Scottish Parliament.
“It is now clear that a No vote means faster, better and safer change for a stronger Scotland, rather than huge risks to our NHS with a Yes vote.”