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Second Scottish independence vote could ‘fundamentally’ damage UK, warns Blair

The former Labour prime minister spoke out 20 years after the first Scottish Parliament elections.

Tony Blair has warned a second independence referendum could ‘fundamentally’ damage the UK. (Victoria Jones/PA)
Tony Blair has warned a second independence referendum could ‘fundamentally’ damage the UK. (Victoria Jones/PA)

Former prime minister Tony Blair has spoken out against the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum, insisting such a vote should not take place “unless there is a really big groundswell of opinion for it”.

The one-time Labour leader, whose government created the Scottish Parliament, voiced his fears that a fresh vote on independence could “fundamentally” damage the UK.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already made clear her desire to hold a ballot within the next two years.

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Nicola Sturgeon (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The SNP leader cites Scotland being removed from the European Union against the wishes of voters north of the border as grounds for another referendum, arguing this is a “material change in circumstances” from the 2014 vote.

But Mr Blair told The Herald: “I don’t think we should have one unless there really is a big groundswell of opinion for it and I don’t see that.

“To be brutally frank about it, the last thing we need at this moment is another huge dose of constitutional uncertainty, we really would start to damage ourselves fundamentally as a country.”

Mr Blair spoke out in an interview to mark the 20th anniversary of the first Holyrood elections in 1999.

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Then prime minister Tony Blair (centre) at the Scottish Parliament in 2000, with then presiding officer Sir David Steel (left) and first minister Donald Dewar (right). (Ben Curtis/PA)

The Parliament came into being after Scots voted for the devolved assembly in a referendum in September 1997 – four months after he was voted in as PM following a landslide Labour victory.

In the interview he stressed he still wanted Scotland to be part of the UK, saying people should “be in no doubt about that”.

But he conceded that Brexit was seen by independence supporters as another reason for Scotland to break away from the rest of the UK

“If you’re a Nationalist, it gives you an additional argument, which is another very good reason, by the way, for not doing Brexit,” Mr Blair argued.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “In 2014 Tony Blair backed the campaign which told the people of Scotland that the only way to protect their place in Europe was to reject independence.

“Five years on and that has been exposed as the myth it always was, with Scotland set to be dragged out of Europe against our will. Independence is now the opportunity to save Scotland from the damage of a Tory Brexit.

“Support for independence is on the rise – as more and more people back the opportunities of taking our future into our own hands, over the chaos of Westminster rule which continues to ignore Scotland’s interests.”

PA

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