Alastair Campbell has said he does not think Scotland will become independent in his life time.

Mr Campbell, who was former Prime Minister Tony Blair's director of communications, made the assessment as he was interviewed by Catherine Salmond, editor of The Herald tonight.

Ms Salmond was questioning the former Labour top spin doctor during his appearance at the Aye Write book festival at the City Halls in the Merchant City, Glasgow where he was discussing his latest book But What Can I Do? Why Politics Has Gone So Wrong And How You Can Help Fix it.

Asked if he thought Scotland would become independent in his lifetime, Mr Campbell first asked the audience for their views (with the audience divided over whether Scotland would be independence in such a timescale and also a mix of support for independence and the union). Polls suggest support for independence is around 48 per cent.

The Herald:

Some of the audience, pictured tonight, at the City Halls. 

He then said: "I think the dial has moved backwards. I don't think we will."

Earlier in the conversation with Ms Salmond, Mr Campbell said he believed the narrative at the next general election, expected next year, should be getting "rid of the worst government this country has ever had" and, in Scotland he did not think it would be about independence.

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Ms Salmond noted that in his book he expressed an understanding of why some Scots favoured independence and she asked him what those who supported independence needed to do to bring that goal about.

"I think they are going to struggle to get it as the dial has moved backwards for various reasons. I think if they couldn't move the dial significantly with the twin evils of Brexit and [former PM Boris] Johnson I think it's going to be hard," he said.

The Herald:

Alastair Campbell playing the bagpipes at the end of his conversation with Catherine Salmond at the City Halls tonight.

"I think the reason why they didn't get it over the line [in the 2014 referendum] do have to have the answers to the really difficult questions.

"And I think that is where they fell short. I would say they have got to develop the answers to difficult questions."

Asked if he thought the UK would enter the EU in the next ten years, the passionate Remainer said "it is possible" pointing to the "fast" pace of change in current UK politics.

He said Brexit was now "a national and international joke" and he believed Labour would revisit some issues relating to the UK's departure from the EU if Sir Keir Starmer became Prime Minister.

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"I want them to have in the manifesto, and I think they would have people flocking, who are at the moment finding it quite difficult," he said.

"All they've got to do is say 'the referendum has to be respected', but the Brexit which has been delivered has damaged virtually every sector of the country, we have to revisit those parts that are and that would involve some renegotiation with our European partners."

During the conversation he described former Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson as "one of the most disgusting individuals I have ever met".

He said he liked Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar but "felt sorry" for SNP leader and First Minister Humza Yousaf.

He joked as he made reference to the police investigation into the SNP finances which has seen officers seize a camper van from outside the home of the mother of former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell. Mr Murrell is married to former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

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"I do feel sorry for Humza Yousaf at the moment. It's not an easy wicket, coming in and finding out that every time you go out you're asked about a camper van," he said.

"It's all gone a bit weird."

Mr Campbell, who played the a song about the Good Friday Agreement on his bagpipes at the end of the event, also discussed his own Scottish background. 

His grew up in England with Scottish parents and said that at school he was viewed as Scottish, while when he later travelled to Scotland for work he was seen as English.

"When I was at secondary school both I and my two brothers in Leicester, all of us, were named Jock because two of us played the bagpipes," he said.

"So in England I was always viewed as Scottish but in Scotland I was always viewed as English."

The Herald: Alastair Campbell and Catherine Salmond before the Aye Write event tonight

Catherine Salmond, editor of The Herald, pictured with Alastair Campbell, just before the Aye Write event.

He added light-heartedly: "And I think it explains a lot about me."

Ms Salmond referred to remarks in his book that so many leading politicians came from Scotland and that he had associated this with the education system and good communications skills taught there. He was asked if he thought this was still the case in 2023.

"I do think historically, definitely, there is something about this. I do find Scottish people are generally more articulate than the English people," he said.

"I have always felt that. I have always had a sense that Scottish working class people, I think, are much prouder of their accent. I think a lot of English people are ashamed of their accents and file off the edges.

"There has definitely been historically that history of education, debating, whether it is still there in the education system here I don't know. I get the feeling that maybe it's not. I remember Charles Kennedy [the former Lib Dem leader] saying to me he would never have become a politician unless he learnt how to debate at Lochaber High School."

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A former political editor of the Mirror and Today, Mr Campbell worked as Mr Blair's spokesman and campaign director in opposition from 1994 to 1997 and then as Downing Street Press Secretary and as the Prime Minister's Official Spokesperson from 1997–2000.

He was the Labour Party's campaign director for the 2005 general election in Mr Blair's third general election win as Labour leader. He also acted as an adviser to Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband at the 2010 and the 2015 general elections.

Aye Write was founded in 2005 and over the years has grown both in scale and reputation. A highlight of Glasgow’s annual events programme, it sees visitors arrive in the city from all over Scotland and across the UK, contributing significantly to the city’s economy and enhancing Glasgow’s reputation as a destination for major cultural events.

The programme for this year’s festival, which started on Friday and runs until May 28, includes fiction, non-fiction, biographies, memoirs and poetry, and there is also a focus on nurturing writing talent and skills with workshops for new writers and masterclasses for more experienced writers.

Mr Campbell is the editor at large of pro-Remain The New European newspaper and chief interviewer for GQ magazine.

He was an adviser to the People's Vote campaign, demanding a public vote on the final Brexit deal. Since his work for Mr Blair, Mr Campbell has continued to act as a freelance advisor to a number of governments and political parties, including the Prime Minister of Albania. In March 2022, he launched the Rest is Politics podcast with former Conservative minister Rory Stewart.

Mr Campbell was part of Mr Blair's core team that conducted the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.

He has been honoured by several Irish universities for his role in the peace process. He became a close friend of, among others, Martin McGuinness, and attended his funeral in 2017. It emerged McGuinness was helping Campbell with a novel which had an IRA active service unit as part of the plot.