Scotland not being independent means devolution has worked, says Blair

Scotland not being independent shows devolution has worked, Sir Tony Blair has said.

Sir Tony was the prime minister who legislated for the Scottish Parliament after a referendum in 1997.

While the former prime minister did not claim the goal of devolution to be to end the Scottish independence movement, Lord Robertson – whom he appointed shadow Scottish secretary in 1995 – said devolution would “kill nationalism stone dead”.

But 25 years on from the opening of the Scottish Parliament, support for independence remains around 50% of respondents to opinion polls.

Tony Blair and Donald Dewar celebrating the win in the referendum for a Scottish Parliament
Sir Tony, left, campaigned alongside Scotland inaugural first minister Donald Dewar for a Scottish Parliament (Adam Butler/PA)

Speaking to Holyrood magazine, the former prime minister said: “I do reflect on devolution a lot, and occasionally do think what should we or could we have done differently but, on the whole, I’m still of the same opinion as I was back then, which is that devolution had to happen, otherwise you’d leave Scottish people with the choice of status quo or independence, and Scotland is still part of the UK, which was part of the design – so devolution has worked, as far as I am concerned.”

He later added: “Whatever people think about Brexit, even if they’re ambivalent about it – and I obviously think it’s a terrible thing, but even if you’re ambivalent about it – you’re kind of thinking, this is a huge mess, and therefore, do we really want to gamble with the Scottish economy that is, by the way, much, much more linked to the British economy than the British economy is to Europe? Do we want to gamble with that?”

The independence movement – spearheaded by the SNP – has found itself in a stalemate with the UK Government in recent years.

Repeated requests for the powers to hold a second referendum have either been rejected or gone ignored in the years since the cause lost the 2014 vote.

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon then sought approval from the UK Supreme Court to hold a plebiscite without Westminster approval, which the judges rejected.

The SNP then cycled through multiple positions about how to treat the upcoming election.

If the party wins a majority of seats north of the border in the July 4 poll, it will seek to give “democratic effect” to the desire for independence, which First Minister John Swinney said last week would mean seeking another referendum.