THE cause of Scottish independence is on the wane, Tony Blair has suggested, as he claimed Labour’s flagship policy of devolution had kept the Union together.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the 1997 devolution vote, the former Prime Minister commented on the contrasting support two decades ago for devolving power to Scotland and to Wales, explaining how in the latter case the then new Labour Government had to “steamroller” the policy through.

In the end, while the vote in Scotland was overwhelmingly in favour of devolution – 74 per cent to 26 per cent on a 60 per cent turnout - in Wales it was much tighter with a 0.6 per cent margin in favour based on a turnout of just 50 per cent.

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Mr Blair, noting how some north of the border saw devolution as a "staging post by the Nationalist element to full separation", insisted the policy of his first government had “allowed us, as a UK, to keep together".

In an interview with BBC Wales, the former party leader said: "If, as it looks to me, that separation somewhat subsides in Scotland, then we will be left with a constitutional settlement that 20 years on, for all its stresses and strains from time to time, has kept the UK together."

Mr Blair also admitted that for a time he was “quite obsessed” by wanting the establishment of a British football league to maintain the cultural links across the UK following the devolution vote.

The Edinburgh-born politician made clear he believed it was important to reaffirm the "strong ties" that bound England and Scotland, 20 years on from the devolution vote.

Reflecting on the anniversary in an interview with BBC Scotland, he said: "Since that time I've always sort of thought about what we did right and what we did wrong.

"In retrospect, I would have looked for more ways of trying to keep Scotland and England culturally aligned.

"I know it sounds a bit strange but I was for a time quite obsessed with the idea that, for example, for football we should be opening up the English league and the Scottish league and having them together because I always thought we should be looking at ways of making sure that people felt a connection."

He acknowledged a British football team "was going to be a step far too far" but added: "I was looking for ways of making sure that as we, in a sense, diverged around devolution, that there were elements of convergence and I still think in the future it's important we look for that."

Mr Blair continued: "In the end the UK is an alliance of interests and values that is incredibly important for England and for Scotland in the modern world.

"One of the reasons I was always against Nationalism is that I felt that ultimately, although I understood the reasons for it, it's got a divisive aspect to it and so for me devolution was about a sensible set of reforms to government but I wanted to make sure all the way through that we kept that sense of unity, culturally and politically, at the right level for the UK," he added.