LONDON - The British government yesterday scrambled to pledge greater autonomy for Scotland, after a poll put the pro-independence camp ahead just 11 days before a referendum on separation.
Finance Minister George Osborne said greater tax and spending powers would be announced in the coming days, and would be implemented if Scotland votes next Thursday to remain in the 300-year-old union with England.
The government's offer came after a YouGov poll published in The Sunday Times newspaper gave the "Yes" camp 51 per cent support, compared with the "No" camp's 49 per cent, excluding undecided voters. Six per cent said they had not made up their minds.
Although the two-point lead is within the margin of error, the findings dramatically up the stakes ahead of the vote, giving momentum to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and his separatist Scottish National Party.
Mr Osborne said it was "clear" that Scots wanted greater autonomy and the three main UK-wide parties - the Conservatives, their Liberal Democrat junior partners in government and the Labour opposition - had agreed to "deliver" on that.
"You will see in the next few days a plan of action to give more powers to Scotland. More tax powers, more spending powers, more plans for powers over the welfare state," he said.
"Then Scotland will have the best of both worlds. They will both avoid the risks of separation but have more control over their own destiny, which is where I think many Scots want to be."
However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer also warned Scots that "they should also be in no doubt about the consequences of this decision. No ifs, no buts: We will not share the pound if Scotland separates from the rest of the UK".
Mr Salmond, for his part, says he would refuse to take on Scotland's share of the UK's debt post-independence if he does not get his way on a euro-style cross-border currency union.