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A war of words in New Year greetings

ED Miliband today uses his New Year message to defend the shared interests and benefits of the United Kingdom, saying solving common problems facing different parts of the state required "a common vision and a common future", and also to denounce the SNP for giving up on social justice.

In his look forward to 2014, the Labour leader pledges his party will focus relentlessly on dealing with Britain's cost-of-living crisis to help hard-pressed families north and south of the Border.

There are also seasonal messages from the Better Together and Yes Scotland campaigns.

Alistair Darling, leading the former, warns the referendum debate "must not descend into division" and the way forward was as one United Kingdom, while Blair Jenkins, who leads the latter, said 2014 would be the "year of Yes" when Scots opt for a "fairer Scotland with more equality and a greater sharing of wealth and opportunity; there is no prospect of that change within the UK".

Mr Miliband says Labour has shown how it will make a difference on the cost-living-crisis with a "fully funded and costed" programme from abolishing the bedroom tax to freezing energy bills. He accuses the Nationalists of wanting to "give up on social justice", but stresses he will not. "I'm going to show in 2014 how we're better together, how we can achieve social justice within Scotland and within the United Kingdom."

In response, Angus Robertson for the SNP insisted a Yes vote was the "route to social justice". He stressed the SNP had pledged to use the powers of independence to cut energy bills by some 5%, or £70, each and every year.

Meanwhile, the anti-independence campaign has been accused of being in "mounting disarray" after suggestions were made that senior pro-UK Tories fear next year's referendum will be lost due to a mixture of complacency, negativity and uninterest.

Alleged fears from Conservative high command that Alex Salmond could pull off a shock victory led the First Minister to challenge once again Prime Minister David Cameron to a live head-to-head TV debate, urging him to step from behind the "comatose" Alistair Darling.

Among those said to have voiced concerns about the state of the pro-UK campaign are Lynton Crosby, the Tories' election strategist, Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, and Lord Forsyth, the former Scottish Secretary.

The Tory peer accused the Coalition of complacency about the September 18 referendum and also criticised the Labour opposition at Westminster.

"Where is the Government? Where is the Opposition making the case in the United Kingdom Parliament for the United Kingdom?" he was quoted as saying.

l A poll of 1000 adults, commissioned by the SNP, found "overwhelming support" in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for a sterling union and common travel area with an independent Scotland. A question about a currency union, prefaced with the statement "Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom are among each other's largest trading partners", showed 71% in favour and 12% against.

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