Scotland politics

Scottish independence: John Major warns over 'Yes' vote

Sir John Major Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir John addressed the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists' Association in Edinburgh

The former prime minister Sir John Major has said Scotland would trade "real influence" for "possible irrelevance" under independence.

Sir John said Scottish government plans to remove nuclear weapons from Scotland in the event of a referendum "Yes" vote would undermine the UK and Nato.

Speaking in Edinburgh, the Conservative also said such a move would not be forgotten by the US.

SNP MSP Stuart Maxwell said Sir John's comments were "woefully out of touch".

Sir John addressed the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists' Association in Edinburgh ahead of the vote on Scotland's future, to be held on 18 September.

'Real influence'

The Scottish government has said an independent Scotland would be able to negotiate EU membership "from within", in an 18-month timescale, but Sir John said entry, "may take years - and may be probable - but is by no means certain".

Sir John said: "And, is it not bizarre for the SNP to campaign to leave one highly successful Union, whilst applying to join another far less successful one that is seen - even by its most ardent advocates - to be in serious need of reform?

"This is even more difficult to understand when you consider that there have always been Scottish voices around the Cabinet table at Westminster - and at the top of our public services.

"By contrast, Scotland - as a mere 1% of the population of the EU - will be guaranteed no senior roles at all.

"The Scottish nationalists are campaigning to replace real influence, living, current, day-to-day influence in the United Kingdom with possible irrelevance in much wider European Union. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for Scotland."

Sir John added: "When the SNP threaten to expel Trident from Faslane, they not only undermine the UK, but Nato as well.

"America would not forgive - nor forget - this, and yet the separatists assume membership of Nato is almost a given."

Bannockburn anniversary

Sir John was also critical of the Scottish government's choice of referendum date, in the year marking the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

He added: "We have fought wars together more often, and more recently, than we have fought against one another.

"We were at war centuries ago, which is - if I may be brutally frank - why I find it rather sad that the Scottish National Party chose the anniversary of Bannockburn for the vote - presumably to maximise the opportunity for any anti-English sentiment that may exist."

Sir John said he was no longer in politics and was speaking for himself, but added that, like anyone from England, had a stake in campaigning to keep the United Kingdom together.

SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said: "John Major is perfectly entitled to his view, but his comments are woefully out of touch.

"He was wrong about a Scottish Parliament in the 1990s, and he is wrong about an independent Scotland now.

"He also, unwittingly, makes the case for independence himself by pointing out that the Tories rule Scotland with just one MP out of 59.

"But John Major is just about the last person the 'No' campaign will have wanted to see entering the debate here, given his track record in ensuring a Tory wipe-out in Scotland in 1997."