A shock poll has given the Yes camp the lead in the Scottish referendum battle for the first time, amid signs of infighting among senior figures backing the union. The YouGov research for the Sunday Times found 51% supported independence, compared to 49% who wanted to remain in the UK.
The results are the latest evidence of a dramatic surge for the campaign headed by First Minister Alex Salmond, which has seen the gap between the sides - once regularly in double digits - vanish in a matter of months. The two point gap is within the margin of error for such polls, meaning the contest, which climaxes on September 18 is effectively too close to call.
Earlier, Gordon Brown blamed the Tories for the tightness of the Scottish referendum battle. The former Prime Minister said the No camp was finding it "difficult" to win over Scots because of anger over coalition policies including the so-called Bedroom Tax and tax cuts for the wealthy.
The intervention, in an article for the Sunday Mirror, came as rumours swirled that a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has given supporters of independence a narrow advantage for the first time. The gap between the sides - once regularly in double figures - has been narrowing in recent weeks and the race could now be too close to call with less than a fortnight to go.
Mr Brown, Labour MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, made another appeal for a No vote on September 18, saying the countries had forged a unique partnership. "Our union is not out of date or an anachronism or a museum piece but a unique, unparalleled, multinational living partnership that Europe and America cannot match or mirror," he wrote. "And what our ancestors built up, no nationalist should be allowed to split asunder."
However, Mr Brown acknowledged that the referendum battle had been tougher than some expected - making clear he believed Conservative policies were responsible. "Why has it been difficult to win Scottish votes in support of this principle of sharing that most Scots hold dear?" he wrote.
"Many are angry that the Bedroom Tax was imposed upon Scots against their will while at the same time the very wealthy received tax cuts. The SNP also claim that the ramifications of any Tory privatisation of the NHS in England will cut budgets in Scotland. But English and Welsh people have already given an answer to the SNP claims.
"The answer is that 90% of English people want to keep the NHS public and retain it free at the point of need. And the vast majority across the whole UK dislike the Bedroom Tax and would even consider more taxes to make our NHS better."
Posting on Twitter, Sunday Times proprietor Rupert Murdoch hinted that the poll would shake up the contest. "London Times will shock Britain and more with reliable new poll on Scottish independence," Mr Murdoch wrote. "If right on 18th vote everything up for grabs."