INVERNESS, Scotland — For 307 years, Scotland has helped put the “united” in the United Kingdom.

That could change Sept. 18, as Scottish voters decide whether the nation should declare independence and break away from England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

It’s a question that evokes a historic rivalry and images from Scotland’s rich history, such as William Wallace leading an uprising against English occupation in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

Proponents of separation, though, say it’s a more modern tale. Scotland is a country booming with oil reserves, ready to conduct its own affairs, they contend. There’s growing frustration among many in the left-of-center country who say the U.K.’s London-based government began moving to the right with the election of Margaret Thatcher and has not looked back.

“It’s not about teary-eyed Scots yearning for ancient soil, it’s about hoping to live in a civilized, caring society, and we’ve given up all hope we can do that with Westminster,” said Keith Aitchison, 67, a retired civil servant who volunteers at a busy pro-independence campaign office in Inverness. “Our two nations have moved apart.”

Yet critics – including the U.K. government led by British Prime Minister David Cameron – argue that Scotland benefits from the union and challenge the wisdom and the cost of going it alone. They’ve raised questions about what would happen if Westminster prevented an independent Scotland from using its currency, the British pound.

“We’ve been united for so long and it works,” said Laraine Johnston of Edinburgh, catching one of several shows at the recent Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the city’s famed performing arts showcase. “I prefer it together. I’m proud to be Scottish and I’m proud to be part of the U.K. I’m not sure people realize how entwined we are and what the costs would be for a divorce.”

Polls suggest a plurality of Scots agree with Johnston. But momentum appears to be with the nationalists, and the vote may be closer than many expected, said Richard Whitman, a European political expert at the University of Kent in England. A poll this week showed voters split 48 percent to 42 percent against independence, the 6-point lead down from 22 in early August.

Severance probably would cost Cameron his job, as he’d be considered “the man who lost Scotland,” Whitman said.

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