The Australian Prime Minister has said he would prefer to see Scotland opt to stay as part of the union in yet another blow to the Scottish independence movement ahead of next month’s referendum.
Tony Abbott told The Times: “What Scots do is a matter for the Scots and not for a moment do I presume to tell Scottish voters which way they should vote.
“But as a friend of Britain, as an observer from afar, it’s hard to see how the world would be helped by an independent Scotland.”
The Australian PM joins US President Barack Obama and Chinese premier Li Keqiang in voicing support for the Better Together campaign.
He said that the “friends of justice, the friends of freedom” would not like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom.
A spokesman for Yes Scotland, which is campaigning for independence, commented: "The decision about Scotland's future is one for the people of Scotland to make - a point that even David Cameron asserts.
"After a Yes vote, Scotland will take her place as a normal and valued member of the international community - just as Australia did when she gained independence at the turn of the century."
The office of Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said Abbott’s input is latest attempt by the UK government to use major international figures in their campaign against Scottish independence.
A spokesman said: "Tony Abbott has a reputation for gaffes, but his bewildering comments have all the hallmarks of one of the Westminster government's international briefings against Scotland.
"Scotland's referendum is a model of democracy, which has been cited as such internationally, including by the US Secretary of State. An independent Scotland will be a beacon for fairness, justice and cooperation in the international community - and a great friend of Australia."
Polls suggest that No Campaign, which once enjoyed considerable support, is increasingly losing ground to Better Together, with a recent YouGov survey finding that 61 per cent of Scots are planning to vote No to independence.
The referendum will be held on 18 September.