TONY Blair has warned Jeremy Corbyn not to use the Union as a “bargaining chip” to gain support from the SNP.

It came as the former Prime Minister admitted he now finds it a “struggle” to vote for the party he once led.

He also issued a direct plea to opposition MPs not to fall into the elephant trap of a general election before Brexit.

Mr Blair – who was Labour prime minister between 1997 and 2007 – made the comments during an event held by the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists' Association in Edinburgh.

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He was asked whether, if Labour wins the next election but fails to secure a majority, it should give Scotland the power to hold a second independence referendum in exchange for SNP support in Westminster.

Both Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell have said a Labour Government would not block another independence vote.

Meanwhile, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has suggested his party would demand a so-called Section 30 order as the price of supporting a minority Labour Government.

But Mr Blair said: “I don’t think that Labour should give any indication at all that it’s prepared to put the Union on the table as some form of bargaining chip.

“This would be, in my view, a major category error both in principle and politically. You shouldn’t do it.

“So I don’t think that question should be answered at this stage.

“I think the question of whether there is another independence referendum has to be decided completely separately from questions of who forms the government of the UK.”

There has been widespread speculation Mr Corbyn would grant a Section 30 order in exchange for SNP support in the Commons.

In August, Mr McDonnell said the issue of any future referendum is "for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people to decide”.

Mr Blair said he thinks Mr Corbyn believes in the Union and he would be surprised if he “enters into horse trading” around it.

He referenced the 2015 election campaign, when there was speculation Labour – under then leader Ed Miliband – would do a deal with the SNP.

David Cameron’s Conservatives secured an outright majority which directly led to the EU referendum the next year.

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Earlier, Mr Blair said he remained a “convinced unionist”.

But he added: “It would be foolish to deny that if what is proposed is a no-deal Brexit, and we were to do such a thing, then it would be a whole additional dimension to the argument for independence that those who wish independence would use, and use persuasively.

“That is why I continue to think that no Brexit is a better solution than no-deal Brexit. I think that is still possible.”

Asked who he thought would win in a future independence referendum, Mr Blair said: “I still hope and believe that the strength of the ties between Scotland and the rest of the UK will prevail.

“And by the way, even though I think Brexit – particularly a no-deal Brexit – adds a dimension of argument to the independence cause, at the same time we would have to say that if Scotland is part of Brexit, especially a no-deal Brexit, that would be a sufficient shock to its economy that you would think people would hesitate very long and hard before putting on top of that an additional shock.

“So that’s why I think and believe people would still vote to stay.

“But I don’t want to see this tension in the Union.

"I think we had got to the point after 2014 where at least for a time, it looked like it was settled."

He said "you could see a certain period of stability" after the vote five years ago.

But he continued: “That’s backing down again today.

"But I still hope and believe that when people ultimately think through the enormous interaction and intersection between Scotland and England they would want to stay.

“But it’s a risk we don’t need to take and we shouldn’t take.”