The battle for St George’s Day

David Cameron and Alex Salmond will each issue an appeal to England today, as both men use St George's Day to score political points.

The prime minister will say England's national day "has been overlooked", in what many observers say is an attempt to encourage Ukip voters back into the Tory fold ahead of the local and European elections.

Meanwhile, Salmond will be promising northern cities that an independent Scotland would work with them to develop trade relations intended to balance the economy away from London.

"St George has been England's patron saint since 1350. But for too long, his feast day – England's national day – has been overlooked," Cameron said.

"Today, though, more and more people are coming together on or around April the 23rd, eager to celebrate everything it is to be English.

"And there is much to celebrate. Because this is a country whose achievements in industry, in technology, sport, music, literature and the arts – they far outweigh our size.

"Our counties and cities are known the world over."

Critics said the prime minister's intervention had the same motivation as his insistence Britain was a Christian country last week. That move was also seen as an attempt to tempt tradional voters away from Ukip.

But Cameron also took aim at English sentiment ahead of the Scottish independence referendum in September.

"This St George's Day, I want us to reflect on one of England's greatest achievements: its role in the world's greatest family of nations – the United Kingdom," he said.

"In just five months, the people of Scotland will go to the polls and decide whether they want to remain a part of this global success story.

"So let's prove that we can be proud of our individual nations and be committed to our union of nations. Because no matter how great we are alone, we will always be greater together."

There will be a quite different message from the Scottish first minister as he speaks in Carlisle insisting the "social union" between the people's of the UK would survive independence.

"An independent Scotland will work in collaboration with our friends and colleagues in the north of England to improve economic circumstances and job opportunities for all our citizens," Salmond will say.

"The ties that bind the nations of these islands will continue and flourish after Scotland becomes independent. You will remain Scotland's closest friends, as well as our closest neighbours.

"People would still live in Annan and work in Carlisle, or live in Penrith and work in Lockerbie. Friends and family would continue to visit each other. We would still watch many of the same television programmes."

Salmond will pledge to hold 'Borderlands' forums after independence to improve economic cooperation with councils and business leaders from the north.

"An independent Scotland will be an economic counterweight to London and the South-east of England – causing a much-needed and fundamental rebalancing of these islands," the SNP leader will say.

Salmond insists Scotland would have strong trade relations with the rest of the UK, despite pledges from all three mainstream parties in Westminster that they would veto currency union.