John Major warns Scottish independence possible ‘within my lifetime’
Former prime minister Sir John Major has said Brexit is paving the way to Scottish independence.
In a speech at the University of Glasgow, Major said the way in which Brexiteers have seized control of the Conservative party showed that “economic logic” was being trumped by “sentiment and emotion”.
In a surprisingly pointed attack on European Research Group “zealots”, Major said leaving the EU will make an independent Scotland and united Ireland more likely.
“It is astonishing to me that English Unionists are so avid to leave the European Union, that they are willing to put at risk our far more historic union with Scotland and Northern Ireland,” he said.
Speaking in the inaugural lecture of the John Smith Centre for Public Service, named after the late Labour leader, Major called for a new “Age of Reason” after the Brexit debate saw expert voices dismissed, immigrants scapegoated and opponents “condemned as ‘traitors’ or ‘saboteurs’ or ‘wreckers’.”
The main UK political parties are being manipulated by “fringe opinion”, he said, calling on MPs not to defer to their party allegiance when voting on the Commons in Brexit.
“Do not ignore the 63 per cent who did not vote for Brexit,” he said.
Responding, Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “He called 17.4 million people a ‘minority of convinced opponents’. He had a democratic vote, the decision has been taken, and what he’s trying to do is overturn that. That’s what he’s trying to do. His speech is riddled with errors.”
Former Labour MP Pamela Nash, who now leads the pro-union campaign group Scotland in Union, said: "Sir John Major's warning must be taken seriously. It should serve as a wake-up call to all of us who hold the UK dear.”
Major also recalled how he had joked with Smith when they were leading their parties about swapping rebellious backbenchers. “A “Skinner for a Redwood” was one proposition,” he remembered.