LONDON - As Scotland rang in the New Year with traditional Hogmanay parties, British Prime Minister David Cameron urged Scots to reject independence in the 2014 referendum.
The devolved Scottish government of First Minister Alex Salmond is pushing for separation from the United Kingdom when Scots vote on September 18. In his New Year message on Tuesday, Salmond urged Scots to seize the "opportunity of a lifetime".
"2014 will be a truly amazing year, one where the eyes of the world will be on Scotland," he said.
"Let's make sure that 2014 is the year when we take responsibility for shaping our own future."
However, Cameron said the referendum mattered to the whole of the UK and urged Scots to reject independence, saying "we want you to stay".
"This is not a vote for the next few years but a vote that could change our country forever," he said Wednesday in a statement released just after midnight.
"Our family of nations is at its best when we work together with shared interest and common purpose.
"This year let the message go out from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to everyone in Scotland: we want you to stay and together we can build an even stronger United Kingdom."
Polls consistently suggest Scots favour remaining in the 300-year-old political union.
2014 is a big year for Scotland as alongside the referendum, Glasgow will host the Commonwealth Games while Gleneagles stages golf's Ryder Cup.
The New Year was welcomed in by an estimated 80,000 people in central Edinburgh.
They counted down the last seconds of 2013 before a fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle.
Revellers then joined in the traditional "Auld Lang Syne" singalong. "There are people from more than 65 countries here," said Pete Irvine, director of Edinburgh Hogmanay organiser Unique Events.
"Huge numbers of people from Japan, Korea and China are here and they're totally welcome."
Businessman Andrew Murray, from Barrhead near Glasgow, said: "I've never seen so many people smiling. There's a real feel-good factor going into 2014, when there's so much happening for the country."