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Tony Blair 'obsessed' with starting British football league

Former prime minister wanted to combine Scottish and English teams after devolution.

Tony Blair was speaking 20 years after the Scottish devolution vote.
Tony Blair was speaking 20 years after the Scottish devolution vote. BBC Andrew Marr show

Tony Blair wanted a British football league established to maintain cultural links across the UK following Scottish devolution.

The former Labour prime minister said he believed it was important to reaffirm the "strong ties" that bound England and Scotland, 20 years on from the devolution vote.

One of Mr Blair's first acts when he swept to power in 1997 was to hold a fresh referendum on Scottish devolution.

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.

"I think 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"
Tony Blair

"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."

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