Gordon Brown has expressed confidence that voters would reject Scottish independence in a second referendum, but acknowledged it would be a “hard battle” to preserve the Union.
Speaking to Sky News, the former prime minister said: “I think if there was a referendum we’d win it and Scotland would stay in the United Kingdom.”
Voters in Scotland rejected independence in a 2014 vote, by 55% to 44%.
But more than a dozen consecutive polls have found a majority of voters are now in favour of independence.
Mr Brown told Sophy Ridge on Sunday that victory a second time round would not come easily.
He said: “People are frustrated and they’re fed up. Not just in Scotland, but in the regions of England and in Wales.
“I see a sense growing right across the whole of the United Kingdom that people feel, in regions and the nations, they’re not being listened to, they’re not being consulted, that Westminster and Whitehall is out of touch.”
Mr Brown, who was PM from 2007 to 2010, called for a rethink of the UK’s political settlement after the COVID crisis, with greater powers for regions in England and the devolved nations.
“The centre will have to admit that it cannot do everything itself and that centralisation is not working in the way that it could,” Mr Brown said.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has said that while her “energies are focused on” dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, she has not ruled out launching her push for independence in a referendum next year.
Ms Sturgeon has said she wants the vote to be in the early part of the next Scottish parliamentary term, following elections to Holyrood in spring 2021.
If the Scottish National Party wins a majority, senior figures claim it will give them the mandate to demand Boris Johnson grant MSPs the power to call a referendum.
But the prime minister has said he will refuse to do so, leading to unanswered questions about what the SNP would do next.
Mr Brown said the ambition of the SNP to potentially have a referendum within a year of the next Holyrood elections is “quite unrealistic”.
“I don’t think people want a referendum now,” he told Ridge, adding: “I don’t think you should have a referendum at this stage when we’re dealing with a pandemic.”
Asked about reported comments from Mr Johnson that devolution had been a “disaster”, Mr Brown responded: “He’s completely out of touch.”
“I think Boris Johnson has got to do something to show that he cares about Scotland,” he added.
“But he’s also got to do it for Wales and he’s also got to do it for the regions of England, where quite frankly some of his statements have gone down badly.
“As a prime minister, and I found this, you’ve got to spend time bringing people together. In the end it’s you, the prime minister, that’s got to try to unite the country.”
And Mr Brown warned the PM that a no-deal Brexit would spark an “economic war” with the EU and US, leaving Mr Johnson as the “most isolated prime minister in peacetime history”.