Europe

Tony Blair made key decision that sparked Scottish independence plot by SNP

Scottish independence 'would be great for England' says host

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Scottish National Party (SNP) leader, and Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon – who has been at the front of the independence movement for years – recently renewed calls for Scotland to break away from the rest of the UK. Ms Sturgeon claimed that Brexit, along with a pro-independence majority elected to Holyrood in May, is a mandate for a second referendum on the matter and has promised to resume her fight for independence once the coronavirus crisis has been dealt with. Some nationalists are becoming increasingly impatient, however, considering the SNP has been in power since 2007, with academic Dr Elliot Bulmer alleging in Scottish newspaper The National that the independence movement feels like it has been “wandering in the wilderness for a long time”.

Downing Street has repeatedly refused to offer Ms Sturgeon the power to hold a public vote on Scottish independence after the SNP leader’s promise that the 2014 vote was a “once in a generation” opportunity.

Yet former Prime Minister Tony Blair inferred devolution may have caused growing calls for Scottish Independence.

Mr Blair admitted in his 2010 autobiography My Journey that devolution was a “dangerous game to play” as it risked encouraging separatist sentiment.

The ex-Labour leader devolved power to Scotland to create the Scottish Parliament in 1999 after he believed too much power was concentrated in the hands of English MPs at Westminster.

Blair said: “I was never a passionate devolutionist.

“It is a dangerous game to play.

“You can never be sure where nationalist sentiment ends and separatist sentiment begins.

“I supported the UK, distrusted nationalism as a concept and looked at the history books and worried whether we could get it through.

“However, though not passionate about it, I thought it inevitable.

“We didn’t want Scotland to feel the choice was status quo or separation.

“And it was a central part of our programme for Scotland.”

He also accused the Scottish media of having a “chronic obsession with an English plot” as evidenced in their reaction to his decision to stage a referendum before pressing ahead with devolution.

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Mr Blair said: “I would be asked: ‘Isn’t having a referendum vote just a way of denying Scotland its due and proper Parliament?’ I would say, ‘Er, but the Scots are the ones voting.’

“’Ah’, they would say, ‘but suppose they vote no?’ ‘Well’, I would say, ‘in that case I assume they don’t want one.’”

The final weeks of Mr Blair’s premiership were “dominated” by the 2007 Holyrood elections where the SNP ultimately beat standing First Minister and Labour candidate Jack McConnell, and triumphed by one seat to form a minority government led by Alex Salmond.

Mr Blair decided to “campaign vigorously” in the contest, despite being viewed as a liability by some in his party and admitted if Gordon Brown had replaced him as Prime Minister before the May 2007 contest, Labour could have won.

Mr Blair said: “With a new leader we could have done better, and in particular it is possible with Gordon we would have won in Scotland.

“Jack McConnell was loyal and decent enough to deny this to me, but I wasn’t sure he meant it.

“It was very frustrating.

“I knew once Alex Salmond got his feet under the table he could play off against the Westminster Government and embed himself.

“It would be far harder to remove him than stop him in the first place.”
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