LONDON (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday urged Scotland to avoid breaking the nation apart, saying that it had the best of both worlds as things are.
In his latest attempt to convince Scots ahead of a referendum on independence next year, Mr Cameron said splitting the more than 300-year-old union of the two nations would leave them "poorer apart." "Put simply: Britain works. Britain works well. Why break it?" he said in comments released ahead of the publication on Monday of a British government analysis of Scotland's role in the United Kingdom.
Mr Cameron played down arguments that Scotland would not prosper as an independent country, saying "I have no time for those who say there is no way Scotland could go it alone.
"I know first-hand the contribution Scotland and Scots make to Britain's success - so for me there's no question about whether Scotland could be an independent nation.
"The real question is whether it should - whether Scotland is stronger, safer, richer and fairer within our United Kingdom or outside it. And here, I believe, the answer is clear." London's political parties including Mr Cameron's Conservatives are campaigning for Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom, while the Scottish National Party based in Edinburgh wants it to become independent.
Mr Cameron said it was "wrong" of the devolved Scottish government, led by the SNP, to have revealed last week its plans for a transition to a new nation within a year and a half of a 'yes' vote.
"It's like fast-forwarding to the closing credits before you've been allowed to see the movie," he said.
The British premier said the analysis being published on Monday made sure the referendum would "not be a leap in the dark, but a decision made in the light of day." "This big question is for Scotland to decide. But the answer matters to all of our United Kingdom. Scotland is better off in Britain. We're all better off together and poorer apart," Mr Cameron wrote.
The referendum is due in 2014 but a date has not yet been set.
A poll reported last month in the Scotsman newspaper found that only 23 per cent of people in Scotland support independence, down nine points on the previous year, with 61 per cent backing continued devolution in the UK.
The vote has also raised the question of Scotland's status within the current 27-member EU if it decides to split.