Blair doubts Scots still want independence referendum, even if SNP win majority

Douglas Barrie, PA Scotland
·3-min read

Former prime minister Tony Blair has said he doubts the people of Scotland want another independence referendum – even if the SNP were to win a majority next week.

Opinion polls have consistently had Nicola Sturgeon’s party leading the pack for the Scottish Parliament election on May 6, with another vote to leave the UK once again among the hot debate topics.

Despite the SNP lead dropping in recent weeks, polling by Panelbase for the Scot Goes Pop website on Tuesday predicted Alex Salmond’s Alba Party is on course to win eight seats and help deliver a pro-independence majority of 16 seats.

Speaking to ITV News later the same day, the man in Number 10 when devolution was voted for in 1997 expressed his doubts over such a campaign and the potential “disruption” it could bring.

Mr Blair said: “My best bet is that in the end Scotland will vote ultimately to remain inside the UK, but I agree it’s proved to be a tougher fight than we anticipated.

“Although again you’ve got to say 2014 when we had the referendum and there was a majority for Scotland saying that ended the issue until Brexit put it back on the agenda.

“I do think one of the weaknesses of the way we approached devolution was not to build real cultural ties and emphasise the enormous things Scotland, England, or the different countries in the United Kingdom have in common.

“I’m not sure that even if the SNP win a majority in the Scottish Parliament that it necessarily means that people want to go through the disruption of an independence campaign, I would frankly doubt that.

“Of course it becomes more difficult over time that if opinion looks as if it’s fixed, but let’s see if that’s actually the case.”

Earlier this year, a day after the sudden resignation of Richard Leonard as Scottish Labour leader, Mr Blair suggested the only effective opposition the SNP faced in the past decade was when Ruth Davidson was Tory leader.

SCOTLAND Election
(PA Graphics)

Anas Sarwar succeeded Mr Leonard in February and told Andrew Marr on Sunday the Scottish people deserve a parliament not obsessed with SNP “psychodrama”.

In Tuesday’s interview, Mr Blair added: “If the Labour Party hadn’t implemented its manifesto commitment to do devolution in 1997, the union would already be in in tatters.

“Where I think we were wrong was in believing that devolution would end the argument for independence, it hasn’t ended.

“But it’s still a very substantial part of the bulwark against it.”

SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “Only the people of Scotland will decide if they want to have an independence referendum, not Tony Blair or Boris Johnson, although it is no surprise to see a former Labour prime minister siding with the Tories in their Trump-like bid to deny democracy.

“The election on May 6 will present the people of Scotland with a choice, whether to put their future into the hands of Boris Johnson’s sleaze-ridden Tory Government or to put their future into their own hands by re-electing Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister with Both Votes SNP.”