SCOTLAND would now be in “economic trauma” if it had voted for independence in the referendum, former prime minister Tony Blair has claimed.
Mr Blair said Scotland would have been left trying to negotiate its currency during the oil downturn, meaning “Tory cuts … would be dwarfed by the SNP cuts necessary to keep the Scottish economy afloat”.
The economic case for separation was always weakTony Blair
The former Labour leader also described last September’s referendum as a “near-death experience” for the UK in which it came close to being relegated from “the Premier League of nations”.
However, the SNP said the intervention would simply remind people of Mr Blair’s “toxic legacy” from his time in power.
Mr Blair made the comments in a speech in his former Sedgefield constituency at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
He spoke primarily to warn that Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise of a referendum on European Union (EU) membership risks economic chaos and damaging Britain’s position in the world.
Mr Blair pointed to Scotland’s 2014 ballot – in which 45 per cent of those who voted backed the creation of a separate Scotland – as he set out his case over the “risk” posed by another referendum.
Addressing an audience at the Xcel Centre, Mr Blair said: “We have just been through the near-death experience for the UK of the Scottish referendum.
“The day was saved, but almost half the Scottish people voted to break up a partnership which has served all the nations of the UK well for over 300 years.
“The economic case for separation was always weak because of the way over those years the economies have integrated.
“Now that case has collapsed along with the oil price. All the calculations made at the time of the referendum on revenue, on foreign exchange, on the balance of payments are now massively reduced because the oil price has halved. Norway, for example, has suffered a 30 per cent plus fall in the value of its currency.
“I had to laugh when I heard the SNP leader challenge [Labour leader] Ed Miliband over whether he voted for Tory public spending cuts.
“The reality is that had Scotland voted to exit the UK it would now be in economic trauma, trying to negotiate its currency against a backdrop of the sliding global devaluation of oil related economies.
“Never mind Tory cuts, they would be dwarfed by the SNP cuts necessary to keep the Scottish economy afloat in the radically-altered market conditions we now face.”
Mr Blair admitted that, according to the polls, support for the SNP was stronger than at the time of the referendum. “Nationalism is a powerful sentiment. Let that genie out of the bottle and it is a Herculean task to put it back,” he insisted.
He continued: “The referendum on Europe carries with it the same risk. For that reason, should the Conservatives win, one other thing will be certain.
“The PM will be spending more energy, will have more sleepless nights about it, be more focused on it than literally any other single issue.
“He knows the vastness of the decision. He knows the penalty of failure. He knows exit will define his legacy. And, following the Scottish referendum, he knows the perilous fragility of public support for the sensible choice.”
The SNP’s general election campaign director Angus Robertson said: “Tony Blair’s intervention… simply reminds people of his toxic legacy. [He] is the very last person who could succeed in stemming the flow of former Labour supporters to the SNP – indeed, he is likely to have exactly the opposite effect.”
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