NICOLA Sturgeon has claimed a strong Remain vote north of the border could prove decisive in keeping the UK in the EU, as she warned her supporters that next week's referendum is not about Scottish independence.

The First Minister acknowledged that the result of the vote in 10 days' time hangs "in the balance", describing polls showing a surge in support for the Leave campaign as a "wake up call" for those who believed Remain would cruise to victory.

However, the SNP leader said she still believed that there is a majority UK-wide in favour of retaining EU membership, and that the voices of Scottish voters could swing the result in a close race. Surveys have consistently predicted an overwhelming Remain vote in Scotland, with a far tighter race south of the border.

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Ms Sturgeon, who previously argued Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will would be a "democratic outrage" and almost certainly spark another referendum on leaving the UK, said it was important the country votes in "big numbers" to secure a win for the Remain camp.

She said: "Scotland’s voice could help to make the difference in this contest, especially if the result is as close as some polls suggest. While I take nothing for granted, I believe Scotland will vote strongly to stay part of Europe – and that Scottish voters could increase the margin of victory for Remain.

"Let me be clear – I want to see a majority Remain vote in England, Wales and Northern Ireland too. But given the potential strength of the pro-Europe sentiment in Scotland, I want to maximise the ‘in’ vote here."

HeraldScotland:

The First Minister, who previously called for a veto for each UK nation so that they could not be taken out of Europe against their will, added: "I support an independent Scotland, but I also support Scotland being in the EU whether as an independent country or as part of the UK.

"However, this vote is not about independence – it is about our continued place in Europe, with all the many benefits that brings. That's why it is important that Scotland votes in big numbers to help secure a win for the Remain side and ensure that our votes and our voices matter."

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Tom Harris, the former Labour MP who is leading the Leave campaign in Scotland, accused Ms Sturgeon of adopting "divisive" rhetoric by talking up the prospect of Scottish voters potentially keeping other parts of the UK in the EU.

He said: "Scotland doesn't have a vote, neither does England, neither does any other nation of the UK. We are voting as individuals, each vote has the same value as any other in any part of the country. It is divisive, and unnecessarily divisive, to start saying one nation can outvote any other nation.

HeraldScotland:

"All votes are equal and the majority wins, end of story. Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland are not members of the EU, we are voting as UK citizens and it doesn't matter where the votes to Leave or Remain come from."

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon confident Scotland will vote to remain in the EU