Remember Tony Blair? He used to be Prime Minister. Well he’s come out today and told us what everyone in Scotland has known since the 23rd of June last year – the Brexit vote puts a second Scottish independence referendum back on the table.
When Blair talks about Scotland people generally sit up and take notice. After all he was the PM that delivered the historic referendum on Scottish devolution which led to the first parliament in 300 years, as well as delivering devolved assemblies in Northern Ireland and Wales.
And people often forget, he is a Scot, born in Edinburgh and schooled at Fettes College in the capital.
However, what he actually said, that people voted without knowing the terms of leaving the EU and that this puts the possibility of Scottish independence back on the table, was stating the blindingly obvious. So should we pay heed to Mr Blair’s views on Scotland given that in his 2010 memoirs he said he was “never a passionate believer” in devolution and that he thought creating a Scottish Parliament was a dangerous path?
His intervention brings to mind the number of times Gordon Brown ‘broke his silence’ during the last independence referendum. Certainly, this is Mr Blair’s first foray into the current debate – but it’s early days, and this may be the first of many. After all, he has little else on his hands these days.
Will his statement have any bearing on Indyref2? Unlikely. The SNP, having tried to trash Mr Blair’s reputation for the past 20 years, are hardly going to praise his statesmanlike qualities now and suggest that we all listen carefully to what he has said. And in any case, the referendum is still a long way off. By the time it is called, the former PM’s quotes will be long forgotten.
The intervention is, however, a further embarrassment for Labour, opening yet another split within the party. Scotland’s only MP, Ian Murray, immediately came out to distance himself from the former leader’s views, stating he didn’t see the arguments of 2014 being any more credible now than they were then.
But with both Westminster and Holyrood parliaments in recess, we’re in a mini ‘silly season’ with little else for political journalists to write about. So Mr Blair’s words, while adding little to the overall independence debate, have received rather more attention than they actually deserve.