Ex-Labour party leader Tony Blair admitted his 1997 manifesto which promised to deliver devolution to Scotland did not do enough to end independence demands arguing his government did not build “real” cultural ties between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Mr Blair did however defend his decision stating if devolution was not introduced then the Union would already be “in tatters” after the Scottish parliament was set up in 1998/99. Despite independence demands continuing to overshadow Scottish politics, Mr Blair added he did not believe there was enough hunger among the electorate for an independence referendum.
Speaking to ITV, Mr Blair discussed how New Labour attempted to curb independence calls by introducing devolution.
While he admits it failed, he told ITV: “If the Labour party hadn’t implemented its manifesto commitment to do devolution in 1997 the Union would already be in tatters.
“Now where I think we wrong was believing devolution would end the argument for independence – it hasn’t ended.
“It is still a substantial part of the bulwark against it and my best bet is in the end Scotland will ultimately vote to remain in the UK.
“But I agree it’s proved to be tougher than anticipated although in 2014 when we had the referendum that ended the issue until Brexit put it back on the agenda.”
Mr Blair then went on to discuss why the issue has not gone away for the Government as he reflected on his time in office.
He added: “I do think one of the weaknesses of the way we approached [independence] was not building real cultural ties.
“Which would emphasise the enormous things that Scotland, England and the rest of the UK have in common.”
The former prime minister was then asked how would the Government do that as waving the Union flag on government buildings could be seen as “gimmicky”.
He replied: “Yeah it does, I don’t think that’s the thing that will make the difference.
“It’s emphasising how much we do have in common I mean I’m not sure even if the SNP win a majority in Scottish parliament that will necessarily mean that people want to through the disruption of an independence campaign.”