Prime Minister David Cameron choked back tears as he told workers in Edinburgh that the historic vote is not about kicking out the “effing Tories” but would be irreversible.
Labour’s Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg urged Scots to remember the emotional ties that bind the UK, including the defeat of Nazism.
With just a week to go before Scotland goes to the polls, Alex Salmond branded the visit a panicked reaction from “Team Westminster”.
The First Minister will stage a press conference today where he will set out the case for independence to a global audience.
The unprecedented joint visit north from all three UK party leaders, who missed their weekly joust at Prime Minister’s Questions, saw a shift in approach from the No campaign to focus on “emotional and solidarity arguments for staying together”.
The three leaders backed a plan of action spearheaded by former prime minister Gordon Brown, which they have said would see work begin on the handover of new powers on 19 September, the day after the referendum.
The main focus of the prime minister’s intervention, in a question-and-answer session at the Edinburgh headquarters of Scottish Widows, was a heartfelt appeal, as he told staff: “I love my country more than I love my party.”
The Tory leader’s voice seemed to break several times during the event as he declared that the rest of the country was holding its breath as the people of Scotland made up their minds and he warned that the decision would be irreversible.
“I hope [what] will really come across in the remaining part of this campaign is the scale of the decision that Scottish people will be taking in eight days’ time,” said Mr Cameron.
“Sometimes, because it is an election, people can think it is like a general election
“You make a decision and five years later you can make another decision – if you are fed-up with the effing Tories, give them a kick and then maybe we will think again. This is a totally different decision to a general election. This is a decision about not the next five years. It is a decision about the next century.”
The Prime Minister mixed memories of Scotland’s vital role in helping to fight the Nazis with tough warnings about the dangers of Mr Salmond’s plans to form a currency union with the remainder of the UK.
Meanwhile, Mr Miliband hit the campaign trail in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, yesterday, telling supporters he would set out a “head, heart and soul” case, as he made “strong emotional and solidarity arguments for staying together”. He recalled that his father Ralph, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, served alongside Scots stationed in Inverkeithing in Fife during the Second World War.
And the Labour leader said he wanted to be able to take his children back to Inverkeithing as part of the United Kingdom to tell them about their grandfather’s service. “It has been said that the emotional argument lies with independence,” he said.
“Not for me. Not for so many people across our country. Because our hearts lie with you.”
In an impassioned call to Scots for a No vote, he added: “Please stay with us. Stay with us because we are stronger together. Stay with us so we can change Britain together.”
The Deputy Prime Minister hit the campaign trail in Selkirk in the Borders, where he urged Scots not to cut the “links that have bound us together” over the centuries.
“I’m an English MP representing an English constituency and I’ll be back in Sheffield tomorrow night where I can tell you everybody will be talking about this,” he said.
“We don’t have a vote in Sheffield but people care about it passionately because they know how important it is and that is why it is right that people, even people like me who don’t have a vote, nonetheless come and put our side of the story, which is that we really can have the best of both worlds.
“We can give these significant new powers to Scotland and celebrate the differences as we do already in the UK, the great differences that exist between the nations that make up the UK, but not do so by just rupturing all the links that have bound us together for so long and which, let’s face it, have created in this family of nations, a union which has been remarkably successful.”
But the First Minister insisted that Mr Cameron was the most unpopular Tory leader ever among Scots and that all three UK leaders represented a Westminster system which is “discredited and unpopular” among Scots.
“What we are seeing today on the other side is Team Westminster jetting up to Scotland for the day because they are panicking in the campaign,” Mr Salmond said.
“The breadth and reach of the Yes campaign is there for all to see – it is not about the Scottish National Party, the Green Party or political parties. It goes right through the whole sector of Scottish society.”
He added: “Our campaign, for example, has the key test on jobs. What we are interested in is having a powerhouse parliament that can create jobs for Scotland.
“What Team Westminster seem to be concerned about is their own jobs.”