Barack Obama backs No campaign on Scottish independence and calls for Britain to ‘remain strong, robust and united’

Washington has previously said the US would stay out of the union referendum debate

Barack Obama has given a surprise boost to the unionist campaign ahead of the Scottish independence referendum, breaking ranks on the US’s impartial position to call on Britain to remain “a strong, robust, united and effective partner”.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Prime Minister David Cameron following the G7 summit in Brussels, the US President was asked for his thoughts with just 100 days to go until Scotland goes to vote.

And while he began by stating that it was ultimately “up to the people of Scotland”, Mr Obama said that the UK as it stands had been “an extraordinary partner” to the US and “it look[ed] like things have worked pretty well”.

He said: “We obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner.”

US diplomats have previously said that the country would stay out of both the independence and EU membership debates going on in the UK.

But Mr Obama also took the opportunity to suggest it is “hard to imagine” that it would be in Britain's interests to break away from Europe.

He nonetheless added: “This is why we have elections, and we'll see the arguments made, and I'm sure the people of Great Britain will make the right decision.”

The Better Together “No” campaigners fighting to keep the union have seized on Mr Obama’s comments, mocking up versions of the iconic Obama “Hope” poster emblazoned with the word “Nope” instead.

The shadow Foreign Secretary and Better Together supporter Douglas Alexander said: “I welcome this important contribution by President Obama. His clear statement of support for the UK staying together will resonate with many of us here in Scotland.

As a global statesman President Obama understands that interdependence is a defining feature of our modern world, and that building bridges, not putting up new barriers, is the challenge of our generation.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama also spoke at the press conference about the ongoing controversy over the deal to secure the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity.

The US President said he “absolutely makes no apologies” for seeking the deal that also saw five Afghan detainees from Guantanamo Bay returned to the Middle East.

Read more: US soldier Bowe Bergdahl homecoming party cancelled over protest security fears

When it comes to getting soldiers back from war, Obama said, “We don't condition whether we make the effort to get them back.”

He also said Bergdahl's health had been deteriorating and “we were deeply concerned about it”.

“We saw an opportunity and we seized it. And I make no apologies for that,” he said.

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