Tony Blair backed independence vote six years ago

Tony Blair is said to have favoured a referendum on Scottish independence six years ago. Pic:Danny Lawson/PA Wire.
Tony Blair is said to have favoured a referendum on Scottish independence six years ago. Pic:Danny Lawson/PA Wire.
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TONY Blair favoured forcing a referendum on Scottish independence six years ago, it was claimed today.

Former spin doctor Simon Pia said that when Wendy Alexander, then Scottish Labour leader, made her famous “Bring it on” comment in May 2008, Mr Blair backed the idea, while Gordon Brown – who had replaced him as Prime Minister the previous year – effectively killed it off.

Mr Pia said: “I did a paper on it for Wendy she sent to Brown and Blair – Tony Blair said go for it immediately, Gordon Brown never replied.”

Labour is due to ramp up its campaign against independence next week with visits scheduled by senior figures including shadow chancellor Ed Balls and former deputy prime minister John Prescott.

Mr Miliband – who was campaigning in Lanarkshire yesterday – will also return for a rally with Gordon Brown and Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont.

Prime Minister David Cameron is also due to come north of the Border to deliver a keynote speech, setting out his personal passion for maintaining the United Kingdom. Other ministers are also expected to visit Scotland.

The build-up ahead of the vote on September 18 comes as polls narrow, giving No a lead of just six points over yes – 53 per cent to 47 per cent, an eight point rise in support for independence in a month.

The anti-independence Better Together campaign today claimed changes to the welfare state after a Yes vote could cost £750 million in the first year alone.

It said promised reforms to the system, such as the abolition of the “bedroom tax” and more support for carers, could cost £350 million, while IT costs for setting up a new benefits system could reach £400 million.

The SNP has pledged to halt the roll-out of the switch from the Disability Living Allowance to the new Personal Independence Payment – a change it says will leave an estimated 105,000 disabled people worse off by 2018.

Nationalists have also vowed to scrap the bedroom tax and propose to increase the allowance paid to carers, to bring this up to the same level as jobseeker’s allowance.

Labour’s Jackie Baillie insisted the SNP’s claims on welfare “simply don’t add up”.

But SNP housing minister Margaret Burgess hit out at Labour, saying it would “rather defend Tory welfare cuts than recognise the need for Scotland to make our own decisions on welfare”. She said: “Scotland is an enormously wealthy country, but for far too many people it simply does not feel like it.”