Staying positive: Upbeat anti-independence campaign kicks off

The battle against Scottish independence began in earnest today, as the 'no' campaign kick-started a positive appeal to voters.

Leaflets promoting Scotland's achievements in Britain were given out at train stations as former chancellor Alistair Darling hit the airwaves to argue Scotland could have "the best of both worlds" by staying in the union.

"The truth is we can have the best of both worlds; a strong Scottish parliament and a key role in a strong and secure United Kingdom," the Scottish Labour MP told Radio 4 before the launch.

"The choice we make will be irrevocable – if we decide to leave the United Kingdom there is no way back.

"We are part of a social union, underpinned by an economic and political union – all parts mesh together."

The tone of the comments was relentlessly positive, suggesting campaigners had learned the lessons of their early attacks which focused negatively on lost investment.

"You can't scare people out of it and my argument isn't that Scotland couldn't go it alone," he said.

"Most countries can – and we would be quite heavily dependent and exposed to the fortunes of north sea oil if we did that – but you could do it. My argument is actually what's best for Scotland?"

Even the name of the 'Better Together' campaign reflects the desire of activists to prevent themselves being seen in an entirely negative context.

Recent polls suggest the campaign may be cruising to victory, with just 35% of respondents to a Mori Scotland survey saying they would back a split, against 55% saying 'no'. That was a significant decrease on results from January which showed a 39%-50% split.

Even worse for advocates of independence, the polling results were reached by offering respondents the question promoted by the Scottish National party (SNP).

The form of the question – "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?" – has been criticised for encouraging a 'yes' response, but even under this formulation support for independence appears to be dwindling.