* Scotland to vote on independence on Sept. 18
* Polls show Scots would choose to stay part of UK
* Cameron warns a Scottish exit would hit UK image, clout
By Andrew Osborn
LONDON, Feb 7 Prime Minister David Cameron made
an emotional appeal on Friday for Scotland to remain part of the
United Kingdom, warning Scots a vote for independence would
undermine Britain's global clout and imperil its financial and
Speaking in London, Cameron, an Englishman whose
Conservative party has only one of 59 UK-wide seats in Scotland,
made his most passionate defence yet of the UK, which comprises
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
"We would be deeply diminished without Scotland," Cameron
told an audience in the cavernous London velodrome used for the
2012 Olympic Games, saying he would fight with all he had to
hold the country he governs together.
"Together, we get a seat at the U.N. Security Council, real
clout in NATO and Europe, and the prestige to host events like
the G8. Make no mistake: we matter more as a United Kingdom -
politically, militarily, diplomatically and culturally too.
If we lost Scotland, if the UK changed, we would rip the rug
from under our own reputation."
Scots will decide in a referendum on Sept. 18 whether their
nation, which has a population of just over 5 million and is a
source of North Sea oil, should end its 307-year-old union with
England and leave the UK.
Cameron said a "yes" vote would imperil Britain's stability
and foreign direct investment.
"We are quite simply stronger as a bigger entity," he said.
"That stability is hugely attractive for investors. Last year,
we were the top destination for foreign direct investment in
Europe. That is a stamp of approval on our stability - and I
would not want to jeopardise that."
It would be extremely difficult to make a currency union
with an independent Scotland work, he added, casting further
doubt on one of the pro-independence camp's main policy ideas.
Political analysts say a "yes" vote would place the future
of Britain's Scotland-based nuclear submarine fleet in doubt and
could weaken London's claim to a permanent seat on the United
Nations and its influence in the European Union.
People close to Cameron say he does not want to go down in
history as the prime minister who lost Scotland. But he has
conceded that his privileged background and centre-right
politics mean he isn't the best person to win over Scots,
usually more left-wing than the English.
RESULT "UP IN THE AIR"
Polls show Scots would vote to reject independence if a vote
were held today, with only around a third keen to break away
from the UK. However, there are still many undecided voters and
Cameron said the outcome was "up in the air".
"Centuries of history hang in the balance. A question mark
hangs over the future of our United Kingdom. There can be no
complacency about the result," said Cameron.
Alex Salmond, the leader of the pro-independence Scottish
National Party (SNP), criticised Cameron for giving such a
speech in England instead of Scotland and challenged him to
debate him, something Cameron has so far refused to do.
"I don't think this is a prime minister who speaks for
Britain, I don't think he speaks for England, I think he speaks
for a Westminster elite who are totally and utterly out of
touch," Salmond told BBC TV, accusing the prime minister of
politicising the Olympics of two years ago.
"The main thing is that this is a speech delivered from
London, ostensibly telling people in England what to do but
actually arguing against Scottish independence instead of a
debate that the prime minister must do in Scotland."
Cameron evoked the spirit of the 2012 London Olympics as an
example of how the UK's four nations work well together and said
Scotland already has a large measure of independence when it
comes to health, education and policing matters.
Tapping into an opinion poll earlier this month which showed
people in England and Wales want Scotland to stay in the UK,
Cameron urged the English, Welsh and Northern Irish to tell
Scots: "We want you to stay".