TONY Blair has said that Boris Johnson “is not going to be the person who saves the Union” just days after the Prime Minister visited Scotland to trumpet his Unionist credentials.

The former Labour leader said a revival in his own party’s fortunes north of the border would be a more “significant advantage to preserving the Union”. 

He also criticised the current Scottish Labour leadership for veering to the Left and “playing around with nationalist sentiment” instead of being “strongly in favour of the Union”. 

It was only when Ruth Davidson led the Scottish Tories that there was a “coherent alternative to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP,” he said. 

His comments coincided with Ms Davidson saying Unionists made a “huge strategic error” by “not sticking the boot in” to the Nationalists after the No vote of 2014.

However she told the Sunday Times she was not as depressed as many Unionists about the prospects for the UK, and said: “work is ongoing to develop a new Union story”.

Mr Johnson made his first trip to Scotland since last year’s general election on Friday, visiting Orkney fishermen and a Moray military base, but not seeing Nicola Sturgeon.

He said the “sheer might of our Union” had helped tackle coronavirus, with £6.5billion in emergency Treasury funding going to Holyrood.

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The First Minister accused him of tasteless “crowing” amidst an ongoing tragedy. 

Before the Brexit referendum of 2016, Mr Blair, who was PM from 1997 to 2007, predicted that a Leave result would prompt Scotland to leave the United Kingdom.

Asked on Sky’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday if he still believed that, Mr Blair said: “It’s a possibility, yeah.”

Asked if it was a “strong possibility,” he said: “It’s hard to judge. I don’t think it’s in the interests of Scotland to leave the UK because the ties - economic ties, cultural ties, everything - are so strong.

“But of course Brexit, particularly if it is a hard Brexit, adds an additional dimension

“My view about Scotland is there’s been two problems really over the last decade.

“The first obviously was after Brexit.

“But then even before that, because the Labour party went off, in my view, completely the wrong direction in Scotland, and the Conservative party, at least until Ruth Davidson, looked as if they were nowhere, there was no proper opposition to the SNP.

“Now, I think if the Labour party as it’s reviving in England and Wales revived also in Scotland, that would be a significant advantage to preserving the Union.”

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Asked if Mr Johnson was a disadvantage to preserving the Union given recent polling showed he had high disapproval rates in Scotland, Mr Blair said: “Obviously he’s not going to be the person who saves the Union in that sense.

“But you do need a viable opposition in Scotland, and they’ve not really had one.

“As I say, the problem when the Labour party went off to the Left and then played around with Nationalist sentiment instead of being clearly in the centre-Left position, and strongly in favour of the Union, it lost its purchase as the opposition.

“Then, other than that period of time when Ruth Davidson was leading the Tories, there was no one who was really able to provide a coherent alternative to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.”

In the Sunday Times, Ms Davidson said the No side should have been far more aggressive in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum, rather than letting the SNP rebound.

HeraldScotland:

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She said: “Mistakes have been made, and one of those was not sticking the boot in after the 2014 referendum.

“We wanted the country to come back together and we were, if you like, interested in showing ourselves to be bigger people than them.

“That was, morally, the right thing to do, but tactically it was a mistake. A huge strategic error in fact.”

After the referendum, the SNP’s membership grew five-fold to 125,000, and in 2015 it won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats in the general election.

It currently has 48 MPs and support for Yes is at 54 per cent in the polls, which also predict an SNP landslide at Holyrood next year.

Later on Sophie Ridge, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was asked about Mr Blair’s comments and whether Mr Johnson “could be the person who breaks the Union”. 

He replied: “No, not at all. If you look at the approach we’re talking, we want to make it really clear the impact that the United Kingdom has, as a government, as a country, in all parts of the Uk, and that includes in Scotland.

“Actually, if you look at the coronavirus, yes of course we’ve got devolved settlement, but in terms of PPE, testing, the role of the military, they had a huge impact in Scotland.”

Asked if he was worried about independence, Mr Raab said: “I always want to make sure we’re one United Kingdom. We get this debate, we keep coming back to it.

“But I think if you look at the economic benefits, if you look at the cultural togetherness, if you look at our clout on the international stage, we’re much better as one United Kingdom.

“I think what we do need to do is much more powerfully make the positive case for it.

“If you look at referendums and elections recently, there’s been a bit of Project Fear that crept into all of them.

“I think we need to be more full-throated and heartfelt in making the positive case of the Union.

“I think Boris Johnson is singularly well-placed because of that optimistic fizz that he has about himself and his leadership style to make the case for the Union that way.”

SNP Depute Westminster Leader Kirsten Oswald MP said: “Boris Johnson is the most unpopular Prime Minister in Scotland since Thatcher – and his visit this week did nothing more than remind people that Scotland is having its future decided for it by politicians we didn’t vote for.

“Westminster is not working for Scotland and it hasn’t been for years. An ever-increasing number of people in Scotland now agree that the only way to properly protect Scotland's interests is by becoming an independent country."