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PM just 'like the jilted boyfriend buying flowers at the Esso station'

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A young campaigner patiently waits for the arrival of Alex Salmond in Edinburgh. Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire

A young campaigner patiently waits for the arrival of Alex Salmond in Edinburgh. Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire

PA

A young campaigner patiently waits for the arrival of Alex Salmond in Edinburgh. Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Edinburgh was being love-bombed by Westminster politicians as I arrived in the Scottish city amid hopes and fears that the UK as we know it is about to become extinct.

David Cameron was there yesterday to try to rally the No side, save the union in a matter of days, and ultimately rescue his own political skin.

With the brooding black crags of Edinburgh Castle on top of the hill, long majestic streets of Georgian houses, and the Scottish parliament, this place already has the atmosphere of a great European capital city.

Appearing at an event yesterday morning, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond seemed delighted by the presence of David Cameron in the city, and earlier had joked that he would be happy to pay his bus fare.

The Yes side likes to portray itself as the positive campaign, but hatred of the Tories seems to be one of the great motivators. A common joke doing the rounds this week is that there are more Pandas in Scotland than Conservative MPs.

One half expected Mr Cameron to break out in tears as he told onlookers in Edinburgh: "I would be heartbroken if this family of nations was torn apart."

Dave had obviously been told by the spin doctors to give his campaign more emotional oomph.

Dumped

As one observer wryly put it, Westminster is now looking like a boyfriend about to be dumped by his girlfriend, seeing what the local Esso station has in the way of flowers and chocolates.

Visiting Edinburgh yesterday, Scottish historian Tom Devine told me that Catholics of Irish background were now among the strongest supporters of the yes side.

"In the 1960s and 1970s they were very much against an independent country, but they have shifted their attitudes dramatically.

"Over the past few decades the Catholic Irish have become upwardly mobile, and they are more comfortable with a Scottish identity than with a British one."

Sometimes the allegiances can be confusing to the outsider.

One man out on the street told me he wanted to keep the link with the UK, because he detested First Minister Alex Salmond. Hearing I was from Ireland, he then bade me goodbye with a cheerful "Up the IRA!"

I am staying in a hotel next to halls of residence of the University of Edinburgh in a city teeming with students.

There are four universities in Edinburgh, and the students spill over into the bars and cafes right across the city centre. I met up with Michael Curry and his girlfriend Amanda Kirkpatrick, and they were firmly in the No camp.

Nationalism

"I have no interest in nationalism. There is a lot of anti-English sentiment being expressed.

"It won't be good for Scotland. You will have a lot of companies moving away. What will happen to mortgages and pensions?"

Mr Cameron may have tried to give the No campaign more emotional impact, but judging by the voices on the street, the reasons for voting to stay in the UK are mostly financial and pragmatic. The Yes side on the other hand is driven largely by sentiment and pride.

Irish Independent