THE SNP have hit back at Tony Blair after he insisted independence was not in “Scotland’s interest”.

The former Labour Prime Minister was speaking as 17 successive polls have given a majority in favour of independence and that Nicola Sturgeon’s party is on course for a fourth term in government after next year’s Holyrood election.

He also said argued that a “really capable” opposition is needed to challenge the SNP in Scotland.

Responding, SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “We know Tony Blair is yesterday’s man but he really must be stuck in the past if he thinks Scottish Labour are a credible political choice for the people of Scotland.

“They are merely the branch office of the Westminster party who recently stood shoulder to shoulder with Boris Johnson’s Tories to vote for Brexit, which will do untold damage to Scotland’s economy.

“Labour did not stop Scotland from being dragged out of the EU against our will and now only independence will allow us to regain our place within the family of European nations.

“That’s why 17 polls in a row have shown independence is becoming the settled will of the people of Scotland.”

Blair said: “We had a referendum that rejected Scottish independence, but Brexit put it back on the agenda again.

“And it’s going to require very careful management.

“The truth of the matter is it’s still not in Scotland’s interest to separate from England.

“There are huge economic and political reasons for the United Kingdom to stay the United Kingdom but we’re going to have to examine whether there’s different constitutional settlements.

“I also think it’s incredibly important, the single most important thing politically to my mind, is that we get a really capable opposition in Scotland – which should be the Labour Party – that’s capable of contesting the Scottish nationalist position in Scotland in a way that prevents them from doing what they do at the moment, which is govern Scotland but pretend they’re in opposition.

“So pretend all the problems are going to be resolved by independence, when actually the Scottish Government itself has in its power the vast amount of the levers that they need to change Scotland residing in the Scottish devolution settlement.”

Blair said it is “extremely difficult” to challenge the SNP on independence when the party is “virtually uncontested” in Scotland.

He said: “You’ve got to look at the ways which we make the case in articulate and sensible ways as to why Scotland is stronger and better off inside the UK.

“But I come back to the point which is nothing to do with Boris Johnson, it’s actually more to do with the Labour Party.

“How do you make the Labour Party back into a credible opposition in Scotland? Because while the SNP are able to govern virtually uncontested, then it’s extremely difficult to dent their position on independence.

“But that’s for us to decide as the Labour Party how we’re going to do that.”

A series of polls have suggested a poor performance for Labour at the election in May.

Last month Survation put it on 20% support in the Holyrood constituency vote among decided voters, neck and neck with the Tories.