NEW poll showed an increase in support for Scottish independence as the first televised head-to-head clash between Scotland's first minister and the man leading the campaign to keep the UK together got under way last night.
SNP leader Alex Salmond took on former chancellor Alistair Darling, the leader of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, in the first major TV debate of the independence referendum campaign.
On September 18 voters in Scotland will decide whether to remain in the UK or become an independent nation.
Broadcaster STV staged last night's TV showdown between the two rival politicians, with a second debate to take place on the BBC on August 25 While polls have so far failed to show a majority in favour of independence, a new Ipsos Moripoll for STV News showed a rise in support for the Yes campaign, while support for the UK is unchanged.
Among those who described themselves as being "certain to vote" in the referendum, 40 per cent said they supported independence, an increase of four percentage points from June.
Meanwhile, the proportion of people who favour Scotland staying part of the UK remained static at 54 per cent.
At the start of last night's debate in Glasgow, Mr Salmond urged voters to opt for independence.
"Within 10 miles of where I'm standing in Glasgow there are 35 food banks in this city and its surroundings, serving thousands of families with children," he said.
"Within 25 miles of where I'm standing there is Europe's largest concentration of weapons of mass destruction and the UK government intends to spend £100 billion - including £8bn of Scotland's money - in maintaining these weapons of mass destruction."
Mr Darling said everyone in Scotland was proud of the country and wanted it to prosper but independence was not the answer.
"There are times that for the love of our family and the love of our country it's sometimes best to say 'No', not because we can't, but simply because it's not the best thing to do," he said.
Mr Darling, who was chancellor in Gordon Brown's Labour government, pressed the first minister on his plans to keep the pound after independence even though the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats have said they will not sign up to such an arrangement.
He said leaving the UK but keeping the pound was "a bit like getting a divorce and keeping the same joint bank account".
But Mr Salmond insisted: "We will keep the pound Alistair because it is our pound as well as England's pound. "