By a Newsnet reporter
Tony Blair’s endorsement of the anti-independence campaign is a boost for Yes, the SNP has said.
The former Prime Minister, who evokes strong opinions for his role in the UK’s involvement in the illegal invasion of Iraq, has thrown his support behind the anti-independence campaign at an event in London today, marking 20 years since he became the leader of the Labour Party.
Speaking to a think-tank in London, Mr Blair claimed there was a “sense of optimism” about the campaign led by Alistair Darling.
He added: “I think the arguments of the Better Together campaign have got stronger as time has gone on. We will see.”
However, the SNP has called the intervention by Mr Blair “an embarrassment to the No campaign” and a “big boost” for Yes.
The timing of Mr Blair’s intervention could not have been worse and coincided with news that he and former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw are to receive warning letters from Sir John Chilcot who is heading an inquiry into the Iraq War.
According to the Independent newspaper, Mr Blair and Mr Straw are to face criticism over their respective roles in the lead-up to the UK joining George Bush in the illegal invasion of Iraq.
Angus Robertson MP, SNP Westminster leader, commented:
“Getting the support of Tony Blair – on the day it is reported he is to receive a warning letter from the Chilcot Inquiry as the architect of the illegal war in Iraq – can only be a huge embarrassment for the No camp.
“Mr Blair has been kept well away from the referendum debate by the No campaign for obvious reasons – until now. His illegal war in Iraq was a calamity, and an avoidable one at that – and the people of Scotland will not forget it.”
He added: “A Labour government – with the full support of the Tory opposition – taking the country to war on the basis of false pretences, with enormous loss of life, displayed the absolute worst side of the Westminster system.”
Mr Robertson said a Yes vote in September would ensure Scotland avoids future illegal Westminster wars.
The findings of the Chilcot inquiry have been delayed as negotiations take place in order to decide what can be published.
However the SNP MP insisted the findings should be made public before voters in Scotland take part in September’s independence referendum.
He said: “I have already called for the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war to be published as soon as possible – and this should be done before the referendum. We need to get as close as we can to the truth about Tony Blair’s war.
“With less than two months to go until the referendum, there can be no further delay. Before people in Scotland cast their vote in September, they simply deserve the truth about how Westminster and Tony Blair – now a part of the No campaign – misled the country into a disastrous and illegal war.”
In 2011, a Malaysian War Crimes Commission – a tribunal consisting of five judges with judicial and academic backgrounds – reached a unanimous verdict that found George W Bush and Tony Blair guilty of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and genocide as a result of their roles in the Iraq War.
In its declaration, the tribunal said: “The invasion and occupation of Iraq was and is illegal. The reasons given by the US and UK governments for the invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003 have proven to be false.
“Much evidence supports the conclusion that a major motive for the war was to control and dominate the Middle East and its vast reserves of oil as a part of the US drive for global hegemony…
“In pursuit of their agenda of empire, the Bush and Blair governments blatantly ignored the massive opposition to the war expressed by millions of people around the world. They embarked upon one of the most unjust, immoral, and cowardly wars in history.”