Alistair Darling, the Better Together campaign leader, has called for calm in Scotland amid growing evidence of intimidation of pro-Unionists by Alex Salmond and his supporters and fears that a narrow No victory tomorrow could create a very nasty atmosphere north of the border.
As three overnight polls put No on 52 per cent ahead of Yes on 48 per cent, the Daily Telegraph today accuses Scotland’s First Minister of bullying Professor Louise Richardson, principal of St Andrews University, to tone down her warning that independence could threaten investment by research councils in Scotland and would be "catastrophic" for her institution.
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, who has cut a feeble figure in the referendum campaign, had to be hustled out of an Edinburgh shopping centre for his own safety yesterday after Yes campaigners jostled him and called him a “f***ing liar”.
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George Galloway the independent MP, who is backing the No campaign, claims he has received a threat that he would “get a bullet”.
Darling and Gordon Brown, the former Labour PM who is enjoying a renaissance in campaigning for a No vote, hit back accusing Salmond and the Yes campaign of being "liars", prompting the headline in The Independent: 'A nation divided against itself.'
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Darling challenged Salmond to condemn the bullying and intimidation by Yes campaigners. “There are some who have stepped over the mark,” he said. “Frankly to have people demonstrating outside the BBC, some thousands of people holding up placards of journalists they disapprove of [namely, Nick Robinson, the BBC’s political editor], you don't expect that in this country.
“What sort of Scotland would that be? The First Minister of Scotland has condoned it. He said it was joyous. It's quite frightening.”
Tom Bradby, political editor of ITN and author of the Ulster thriller Shadow Dancer, said the animosity shown against journalists by Yes campaigners in Scotland was worse than anything he had experienced covering the Troubles in Northern Ireland. “I am not enjoying covering the Scottish referendum,” he writes in the Daily Mail. “I should be.”
Boris Johnson's biographer, Andrew Gimson, said he was shocked in Glasgow by the "vindictive tone of some of the speakers". Uppingham-educated Gimson said: "If there is a No vote, the most difficult task may only just be beginning: to find some way of calming the passions which motivate so many Yes voters."
Salmond, interviewed by James Naughtie on Today, promised to back the vote whichever way it goes when the result is announced at 6 am on Friday morning.
He said that if the Yes side wins "my first act will be to say the No and Yes campaigns are over, what we have now have is Team Scotland. I shall be inviting people across the political spectrum to join Team Scotland..." He quickly added: “That is what I will do in both circumstances.”
David Cameron tells The Times he has "no regrets" about his handling of the referendum - but the fact is he faces a backlash whichever way the vote goes.
Michael Gove, the Chief Whip, has been ringing round Tory backbenchers testing their mood on Cameron’s fate. Some are making it clear they expect him to be gone within a week if there is a Yes vote, while others are threatening to rebel against ‘The Vow’ to give Scotland new powers on taxation and welfare spending in the event of a No vote.
In the short term, there’s some small comfort for Cameron. Amid reports of Rupert Murdoch buddying up to Alex Salmond, there were fears the Scottish Sun newspaper would urge its readers to vote Yes. In the event, the paper has decided to stay firmly on the fence, saying the referendum is “your voice, your choice, your vote”.
Murdoch, of course, likes to back a winner, and, on balance, the latest polls suggest Salmond won't succeed.
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