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Former Sunday Mail editor discusses Scottish front pages ahead of this week's independence vote

As a former editor of the Sunday Mail in Scotland, which sold more than 900,000 copies each week when I left in 1991, I have taken a sharp interest today in how the Scottish titles have approached the highly charged Yes or No question of the Scottish referendum.

Making the editorial decision even more difficult was the late-breaking horror story of the Perth man David Haines executed by Isis in the Middle East.

My own old paper the Sunday Mail chose to devote most of page one to the execution, leaving only a small referendum mention, ‘It’s time’, at the top of the page.

This replaced an earlier edition (shown above) which had concentrated on the momentous question facing the Scottish electorate on Thursday.

The rival Sunday Post - where I began my journalistic career - made its view clear in a lengthy leader: “The Sunday Post believes the case for independence, at this time, is unproven and carries too many risks. It is our considered opinion that the best option, the safer option, is to deliver the vision of a better Scotland with the safety net of the United Kingdom.”

The Sunday Mail focused its leader column on the 'ugly' strategy taken by the Better Together campaign.

The Mail also gives Alex Salmond his say.

There is certainly no ambiguity in the Sunday Herald which has been until now the sole flag carrier for a yes vote.

After a stunning wrap-round cover today, its referendum page one concentrates on the Treasury’s shameful manipulation on the story of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s decision on its head office.

The Sunday Herald presentation is striking and I congratulate the editorial team on their bold and consistent efforts.

The Sunday Telegraph on the other hand produced a page one for Scotland which has aroused fierce controversy: focusing on the Scottish soldiers who died fighting for the United Kingdom.

On top of a picture of kilted soldiers carrying a coffin draped with the Union Jack, the headline reads@ “Scottish soldiers lost their lives trying to preserve the United Kingdom. What will their families say now, 'Well it no longers matters'."

Alongside is a moving plea by former head of the Army Lord Dannatt against a yes for independence.

This presentation will offend many but my view is that it a brilliant piece of tabloid journalism. It hits where it hurts. What’s more it may even sway the votes of some waverers.

Scotland on Sunday, the Observer and the Sunday Times present competent presentations of the referendum story. The Independent presents a nuanced page one featuring Alex Salmond and David Cameron with the questioning headline: 'Who to Believe?'

There’s little doubt that it is misjudgments by Cameron that have led the United Kingdom to this pass.

I am too long in the tooth to imagine that what the papers say will actually be the overriding influence on the decision of the Scottish electorate. After all the combined sale of Sunday papers in Scotland is rather less today than what the Sunday Mail itself sold when I was editor.

I have one caveat: that a yes vote by the Scottish Sun could just tip the balance in an even race.

I believe a yes vote is appropriate on Thursday. If that is the final answer, the people of Scotland deserve all the support of Scots around the globe in the challenging days ahead. The will certainly have mine.

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