Tony Blair: Case for Scottish independence “much more credible” due to Brexit

Nathanael Williams

As Blair wades into independence debate, Scottish parties restate terms of Brexit cost

TONY BLAIR, the former UK and Labour Prime Minister, has said the context for the pro-Scottish independence case is “much more credible” after the Brexit vote.

He made the remarks during a speech on Brexit which he stated had the potential to accelerate the break-up of the UK and fasten Scottish independence.

In the speech, made at the pro-European campaign group Open Britain, Blair said that it was important for the public to “rise up “ against those who “always wanted a hard Brexit.”

“The break-up of the UK is now back on the table but this time with a context much more credible for the independence case.” Tony Blair

He said: “In addition to all this, the possibility of the break-up of the UK – narrowly avoided by the result of the Scottish referendum – is now back on the table but this time with a context much more credible for the independence case.

“We are already seeing the destabilising impact of worry over border arrangements on the Northern Ireland peace process.

“None of this ignores the challenges the country faces in common with many other countries: those left behind by globalisation; the aftermath of the financial crisis; stagnant incomes amongst a section of the public; and for sure the pressures posed by big increases in migration which make perfectly reasonable people anxious and feeling unheard in their anxiety.”

Tony Blair has previously come out in opposition to Scottish independence, although warned ahead of the Brexit vote that leaving the European Union would make Scottish independence more likely. 

However, the Scottish Government has argued that as a majority of people, 62 per cent, in Scotland voted to Remain in the EU – a special deal to allow Scotland to remain in the single market should be the minimum condition for any Brexit plan. Both the Scottish Government and Scottish Greens have expressed disappointment that the stated vows of “substantial powers” outlined during the referendum in 2014 did not materialise.

SNP Europe spokesperson Stephen Gethins emphasised the dangers of Scotland staying in a “Tory dominated and isolated UK.”

“We are determined to keep Scotland’s place in the European single market.” Stephen Gethins

He said: “Tony Blair’s comments simply reflect the reality that the independence debate now is fundamentally different to the one in 2014 – and the Tories’ threat of a hard Brexit at any cost to Scotland is only going to see support for an independent Scotland rise further still.

“When even the Director of the right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs is now agreeing that Scotland is ‘perfectly able to be an independent country’ – counter to  previous views – it is clear that the threat of a hard Brexit has changed the debate.

“We are determined to keep Scotland’s place in the European single market – which is around eight times bigger than the UK’s alone – and independence must be an option if it becomes clear it is the best or only way of doing so.”

“Tony Blair is right about Europe but wrong about independence.” Willie Rennie MSP

These comments also follow the manifesto pledge by the SNP, now in Government in Scotland, stating that if there was a “change in material circumstances” this would validate another independence referendum. In fact, more pressure has been applied to the UK Government as a result of a leaked EU Commission report where officials have suggested Scotland’s position would be included in negotiations after Article 50 is triggered in March. 

Responding to Tony Blair’s speech, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said: “Tony Blair is right about Europe but wrong about independence. The case for independence is weaker, not stronger, now especially with the £15bn black hole in the Scottish public finances that would hit our NHS and schools.”

Scottish Labour’s Westminster spokesman Ian Murray argued that independence was a distraction from the issue of keeping Scotland in Europe. He said: “Labour will not support any SNP plan for another independence referendum. It’s time the nationalists focused on the day job of fixing the mess they have made of Scotland’s schools and getting a grip of the crisis in our NHS.”

Picture courtesy of Bloomberg TV

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