Tony Benn ‘opposed Scottish independence’ but died before he could say so in public

Late Labour stalwart believed independence for Scotland would ‘seriously weaken both England and Scotland, his brother has revealed

The late Labour MP Tony Benn was fervently opposed to Scottish independence and had wanted to come out publicly in support of the Better Together campaign before he died, his brother has said.

Mr Benn, who was half English and half Scottish, believed that a “Yes” vote in September’s referendum would weaken both countries, his brother David Benn wrote in a letter released today by Labour.

Described by the Labour leader Ed Miliband as “an iconic figure of our age”, Tony Benn died in March this year before making public his views on the independence debate.

David Benn said his brother was a “committed supporter” of devolution but against “outright independence”, which he believed would have a detrimental impact on the ideals of socialism he spent his life campaigning for.

He wrote: “Tony was one of a large group of people who are half-English and half-Scottish, and one hopes that voters will take some account of their feelings.

“He was profoundly attached to both countries, and was, I know, saddened by the idea that the land of his mother's birth might choose to separate itself.

“My brother was, needless to say, a committed supporter of Scottish devolution. But he was strongly opposed 'in the nicest possible way', as he put it, to outright Scottish independence - a subject we often discussed.

“He was convinced that it would do nothing to promote the Socialist cause which he championed, while seriously weakening both England and Scotland. He had hoped to put his view on the public record, but his last illness unfortunately made this impossible.”

The letter was made public ahead of a visit to Scotland by Tony Benn’s son Hilary, himself a Labour MP and former Environment Secretary.

And it also came as it was announced Emily Benn, 24, will make a fresh attempt to become the fifth generation in her family to become an MP – though she will be trying to overcome a Conservative majority of 15,818 in Croydon South.

Hilary Benn said today: “The socialism my father campaigned for all his life was about solidarity.

“He was a passionate believer in standing together and supporting one another in struggle and difficulty, not pushing people apart.

“To him, independence would not further the beliefs he fought for. That's why he was clear that the Labour cause - and the Socialist cause - was best served by staying together.”

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