Allies: Tony Abbott with UK Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha. Photo: Andrew Meares
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has weighed into the debate on Scottish independence by saying those advocating for a break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice or freedom.
The Scots will go to the polls on September 18 to answer the referendum question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
In an interview with the London Times, conducted when he was in London last week, Mr Abbott said: “What the 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.
“I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, not the friends of freedom, and that the countries that would cheer at the prospect of the break-up with the United Kingdom are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.”
Mr Abbott’s comments were described by the Times as “the most pointed intervention yet by a foreign leader in the independence debate”.
A spokesman for Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who is leading the pro-independence campaign, said the Australian Prime Minister had "put his foot in it".
"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," he said.
"Many Australians, including the great number with close Scottish connections, will look on in bafflement at these remarks - Australia is a country that has gained its independence from Westminster and has never looked back."
Gail Lythgoe, campaign organiser for pro-independence group Yes Scotland, hit back at Mr Abbott’s comments, telling Fairfax Media that “independence seems to be working well for Australia".
“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,” she said.
US President Barack Obama has previously backed the UK staying intact, saying: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
According to the latest You-Gov poll, undertaken on August 7, 55 per cent of Scots say they would vote no at the referendum while 35 per cent say they intend to vote yes.
With Patrick Hatch, AAP