A Brexit from the EU could trigger a second referendum on Scottish independence, former prime minister Tony Blair has said. Speaking to a French radio station, he warned of the wider implications of voting to leave the bloc and added that he expects Prime Minister David Cameron to "get his demands" as he seeks to keep the UK in a reformed EU.
In an interview with France's Europe 1 radio station, Blair said: "There is a little-noticed dimension which is that, in my opinion, if the UK votes to leave Europe, Scotland will vote to leave the UK. It is extremely serious for Great Britain."
In the referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014, 44.65% of Scots voted to break away from the UK while 55.25% voted to stay in the union. According to the National Centre for Social Research, 51% of the UK wants to remain in the EU compared to 49% who wish to leave. The figures were reached by calculating the average of the six most recent polls between 18 December 2015 and 21 January.
Despite the appearance of a neck-and-neck race, public sentiment on EU membership shifts significantly in different parts of the UK. The research agency calculated that up to 75% of Northern Ireland voters wish to remain in the EU, followed by 64% of Scots and 55% of Welsh.
"There are big strategic and economic reasons to remain in Europe," Blair said, speaking in French. "I am worried because there will be a vote and it is always possible that people will vote for leaving Europe. But I hope not and I believe not."
Cameron has promised a vote on the UK's membership of the EU by the end of 2017 and recent speculation has suggested that British voters could head to the polls as soon as June if the prime minister's renegotiations receive the green light from his European counterparts in February.
Speaking on 24 January, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said if the UK decides to leave the EU but Scotland votes to stay in, the result would lead to an "overwhelming demand" for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Stephen Gethins, the SNP MP for North East Fife, said: "If Scotland is taken out of the EU against its will then obviously there will have been a fundamental breakdown in what should be a partnership of nations. And it is highly likely that this would trigger an overwhelming demand for a second Scottish independence referendum."