David Cameron and Ed Miliband are to miss their weekly Commons clash at Prime Minister's Questions in order to campaign in Scotland for a No vote in the independence referendum.

In a joint statement with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the leaders of the three main Westminster parties said that they wanted to be out "listening and talking to voters" about the choice they faced.

The announcement came as Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said the Better Together campaign was in a state of "total disintegration" with the opinion polls showing the outcome of next week's vote is too close to call.

In their statement the three leaders said: "There is a lot that divides us - but there's one thing on which we agree passionately: the United Kingdom is better together.

"That's why all of us are agreed the right place for us to be tomorrow is in Scotland, not at Prime Minister's Questions in Westminster.

"We want to be listening and talking to voters about the huge choice they face. Our message to the Scottish people will be simple: 'We want you to stay'."

Speaking in the garden of No 10, Mr Cameron said the parties were putting aside other differences to make clear to the people of Scotland that they could have "the best of both worlds" if they rejected independence.

The Saltire is expected to fly over Downing Street in a sign of commitment to the union, a move which follows an appeal by Mr Miliband for cities, towns and villages across the UK to display the flag.

Explaining the dramatic decision to cancel his appearance in the Commons, Mr Cameron said: "I'll do everything that I can.

"Let's be frank, there's a lot that the political leaders disagree about but there's one thing that we all agree about passionately and that is that our United Kingdom is better off if we stay together.

"So tomorrow the right place to be isn't Westminster at Prime Minister's Questions, it is being in Scotland, listening to people, talking to people.

"We will all have our own ways, separately, of talking about why we are better together.

"But one thing I'm sure we will all say is that it's a matter for people in Scotland to decide, but we want you to stay."

Asked if the highly-unusual move was a sign of panic in the Yes camp and about the security of his own position as Prime Minister if he oversaw the break-up of the Union, Mr Cameron said: "I really care about this issue.

"I care passionately about our United Kingdom and I want to do everything I can to put the arguments in front of the people.

"In the end it is for the Scottish people to decide but I want them to know that the rest of the United Kingdom, and I speak as Prime Minister, want them to stay.

"All those steps we can take, making sure people in Scotland know that they can have the best of both worlds - more powers to govern themselves but also being inside the United Kingdom."

The Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders in Scotland came together earlier to endorse the timetable set out yesterday by former prime minister Gordon Brown for a new transfer of powers from Westminster to Holyrood.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "We agree that there should be more tax-raising powers for the Scottish Parliament, there should be welfare, and we need to do more to stimulate the economy."

The announcement was dismissed as "hype" by Mr Salmond, who said that there was nothing new in the package.

"This is the day that the No campaign finally fell apart at the seams," he said during a photocall outside Edinburgh's St Giles Cathedral with EU citizens who have the right to vote in the referendum.

"This is a retreading, a repackaging, retimetabling about what they said in the spring.

"It's totally inadequate, it's not enough. It's nothing approaching the powers that Scotland needs to create jobs, to save the health service and build a better society.

"The polls at the weekend, which caused so much panic in the breasties of the No campaign, actually showed that independence was the most popular option.

"And of course David Cameron and George Osborne, their one red-line issue in setting up this referendum was not to allow devo max, as it is called, on to the ballot paper.

"So to actually produce something which is far short of that, which is weak, insipid and has already been discounted by the Scottish people with days to go in the campaign, after hundreds of thousands of people have already voted, is a sign of the total disintegration of the No campaign.

"I've never seen a campaign disintegrate in the way that the No campaign is disintegrating at the moment."

With the three party leaders out on the campaign trail tomorrow, the Leader of the Commons William Hague will stand in for Mr Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions.

Mr Cameron's official spokesman confirmed that the Saltire will fly above 10 Downing Street from this afternoon until the end of the referendum period next week.

The Union Flag will fly on the other flagpole above No 10.

The spokesman told a regular Westminster briefing: "You can expect other Whitehall departments to do that, as I think we will see in a number of institutions and public buildings across the UK."

Mr Cameron discussed the need to keep making the case for the Union at this morning's weekly Cabinet meeting, the spokesman said.

"One of the points that he made to Cabinet was that domestically there is nothing more important than the future of the UK and the future of Scotland in the coming days," he said.

"The Prime Minister has been very clear in his message that we want Scotland to stay.

"I would put the fact that the Saltire will be flying over No 10 firmly in that context."

Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband agreed to miss PMQs to travel to Scotland at a meeting in the Prime Minister's office in the House of Commons following his statement to MPs about the Nato summit yesterday afternoon, and the plan was later agreed with the Liberal Democrats, the spokesman said.

It is expected that the three UK party leaders will take part in separate events in Scotland tomorrow, rather than appearing together on a single platform.

Mr Cameron is intending to pay a further visit to Scotland next week ahead of the referendum vote, said his spokesman.

"Here in the UK, nothing is more important than sending that clear message about wanting Scotland to stay and wanting voices from across the UK to make that point," said the spokesman. "That's what the Prime Minister will be doing when he travels to Scotland this week and next in a whole series of interventions."

Downing Street had indicated yesterday that Mr Cameron was not clearing his diary this week to focus on the independence issue.

But his spokesman rejected suggestions that the surprise visit to Scotland was a sign of panic, saying: "If you believe passionately in an argument, then you want to make it.

"The three party leaders have many differences on a range of other subjects, but on this they have a shared view. I'm sure each of them will be be making the arguments strongly and with conviction."

He declined to say who had proposed that all three leaders should travel to Scotland on the same day, saying only: "It emerged from the cross-party discussions."

Asked whether Mr Cameron would regard it as helpful for the Queen to make a statement on the independence issue at this point, the PM's spokesman said: "It is the job of politicians to make the political case in the usual way."

He rejected suggestions that it was unfair to voters who have already cast their ballots by post for new policy announcements to be made so close to polling day.

"I think from very early on in the campaign, we had a commitment from each of the three parties to further devolution," said the spokesman. "I would have thought that in most, if not all, political campaigns those who are participants campaign right until the ballot box opens. We expect people to keep making their arguments right up until referendum day."

Meanwhile, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have come under fire for not opting to inform MPs first about their proposals of further devolution to Scotland.

Speaker John Bercow also insisted there is nothing to prevent a Government minister from making a statement to the Commons, as calls emerged for further information at 7pm today.

Conservative Christopher Chope (Christchurch) said if the Government was "genuinely keen" to share further details with MPs, and that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's excuse that the rules of purdah stopped him from saying anything in Parliament was wrong, then there was time today to rectify the situation.

Labour former cabinet member Peter Hain added it would be "paradoxical" if ministers were barred under purdah to announce their intentions in the Commons but were able to do so outside Parliament.

Scottish National Party MP Pete Wishart insisted the Prime Minister, Mr Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband were "fleeing" Westminster in a "blind panic" to Scotland tomorrow.

The trio announced in a joint statement they will be campaigning in Scotland for a No vote in the independence referendum, with Prime Minister's Questions featuring Commons Leader William Hague and Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman.

MPs also heard Mr Bercow was informed about the absence of the three leaders from tomorrow's PMQs session after a joint statement was issued at noon.

Raising a point of order, Mr Chope told Mr Bercow: "The Deputy Prime Minister was giving evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee earlier today and I asked him why the United Kingdom House of Commons was not going to be told first about the details of further devolution so that members could ask questions.

"There could, for example, be a statement on this at seven o'clock this evening. The Deputy Prime Minister told me the that reason the Government could not make a statement was because of the rules of purdah.

"So my point of order is to ask whether it's correct under the procedures of this House that the rules of purdah prevent Government ministers making such a statement to our House about proposals for further devolution to Scotland.

"And if purdah is not a bar and the Government is genuinely keen to share this information with the House, would it be possible for the Government to come forward with a statement at seven o'clock this evening?"

Mr Bercow replied: "My understanding is that the convention of purdah during election and referendum campaigns is not a convention of a parliamentary character.

"There is nothing to prevent or to render illegitimate the communication by a Government minister of a view or an intention to this House and therefore what you say about the possibility of a Government statement either tonight or tomorrow is in my understanding, having taken advice, correct."

Mr Hain said his understanding or purdah did not prevent Mr Cameron or Mr Clegg from informing MPs about their plans.

He said: "It seems to me to be paradoxical to say the least that ministers including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister can make statements outside the House about the future of the United Kingdom but cannot make statements inside the House."

In his reply, Mr Bercow said that purdah applies to both what is said inside and outside the Commons.

Mr Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire), also raising a point of order, told Mr Bercow: "What we have learnt from the media is significant new powers to Scotland are going to be offered during a purdah period.

"Now, I've listend very carefully to your rulings to both (Mr Chope and Mr Hain) but it does seem to me that purdah will be broken and there is no excuse that this statement is being outside the House. It is still being made.

"Can you tell us if this does indeed break purdah?

"And can you also tell us when were you first advised that the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition would not be at Prime Minister's Questions tomorrow? What arrangements have been made in place? And why are they fleeing at such short notice and in such blind panic to Scotland tomorrow?"

Mr Bercow replied that purdah was not a matter for him.

On when he was informed of the absence of the leaders from PMQs, he added: "I did receive an indication of this within I think the last hour and I can only say to you, not withstanding the expression of shock upon his countenance, that there is absolutely nothing disorderly that has taken place here."