TONY Blair yesterday likened the SNP to Ukip when he criticised Alex Salmond’s independence plans on a rare trip north of the Border.
The former Labour prime minister said the SNP and the UK Independence Party were too keen to separate themselves from political unions and blame others for their difficulties.
Speaking in Edinburgh, Mr Blair made his first foray into the constitutional debate since the launch of the Yes and No campaigns. Addressing delegates at the National Association of Pension Funds conference, Mr Blair compared the SNP with Nigel Farage’s party when asked his views on Britain’s place in the European Union.
He said: “I feel about Britain separating out from Europe in the way that I feel about – frankly since I’m here in Edinburgh – Scotland separating from the UK. The problem with this [is that]people, whether it is Ukip or the Scottish National Party, have the idea that the cause of our problems is someone else, and the cure is separating ourselves out from that someone else. It is not like that – neither the cause nor the cure.
“The fact is that the world is ever more interconnected. To disconnect yourself, either Scotland from the UK or Britain from Europe, is just not sensible, because many of the challenges we are going to have to face together. We are going to have to get solutions together.”
Mr Blair acknowledged political unions were “frustrating and difficult” and said he agreed with much of Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans to reform Europe. But he argued that the UK should remain in the European Union, saying: “There is a strong case for reform and Britain should be leading that in Europe – not saying, ‘We don’t like it, we’re off’. I really don’t think that is a sensible position for us to take.”
Mr Blair said the biggest geopolitical change would be the shift of power to China, and argued Britain would be better placed as a member of the EU to deal with the economic superpower.
He said: “In interacting with that, I can’t think we would have a bigger role as Britain out of Europe.
“So when people say we should go out and hunt for markets in India, Brazil or China, going to those countries now, as I do, I can tell you there is no way they are going to treat Britain more seriously out of Europe.”
Similarly, he said Scotland would benefit from staying in the UK, adding: “I think ultimately Scotland being part of the UK is in Scottish interests, it is in English interests and the interests of the Union as a whole.
“It goes with a great history. Sometimes you have to take a step back from more immediate problems, which is true in life, business and politics, and look at what I used to call the big picture. Connectivity will be what decides your ability to exercise the leverage of power.”
But Mr Blair’s contribution was ridiculed by the SNP, which argued that the former prime minister was a discredited politician, whose intervention would help the Yes campaign.
SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said: “This is a good development for the Yes campaign, because the tenth anniversary of Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq on false pretences is a compelling illustration of the need for Scotland’s parliament to have the full powers of independence.
“Tony Blair admitted last month that the Iraq war was a failure and did not make the world a safer place – and by voting Yes for an independent Scotland in next year’s referendum, we can ensure that never again can Westminster drag Scotland into an illegal and immoral war.”
Mr Blair’s appearance was part of his role as a part-time adviser to JP Morgan, which earns him an estimated £2 million a year.