SCOTTISH Labour’s deputy leader has said that he would not oppose a second referendum on independence.
Alex Rowley also said that another vote on leaving the UK would be a “different proposition” from 2014, but believes it is difficult to say if it would be in the best interests of Scotland.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has raised the prospect of another vote on leaving the UK to protect Scotland’s place in the EU after the Brexit vote. Scots voted 62-38 per cent in favour of remaining, but votes in England and Wales swung the result for Leave.
Mr Rowley told the Sun today: “I have lost count of the number of people that have asked whether I support a second referendum on independence. My response is that I would not oppose such a referendum.
“I accept the SNP were clear in their manifesto that the Scottish Parliament would have the right to hold another one if there was a ‘significant and material change’ in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014 – such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”
But it remains an unknown quantity what the UK will look like outside of the EU, Mr Rowley said, meaning that another referendum would be “a very different proposition” from the 2014 vote.
He added: “It is difficult to assess what will be in the best interests of the people of Scotland but we can set some guiding principles. These should include what is best in terms of our economy and jobs, pensions and dignity in retirement, free high quality education, health and public services and the security of our nation.”
Tory leader Ruth Davidson has already said that Scotland should not be blocked from holding a second independence referendum if MSPs at Holyrood back such a move. Responsibility for the constitution lies with Westminster, meaning Prime Minister Theresa May could veto such a proposal.
SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said: “These are welcome comments from Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader – making clear that the Scottish Parliament has the right to hold an independence referendum if it becomes clear this is the best or only way to protect Scotland’s place in Europe, and that he would not oppose such a referendum.
“Alex Rowley is also absolutely right to point out that any such referendum would be a completely different prospect from the 2014 referendum – the fact is that the UK which Scotland voted to stay part of two years ago simply doesn’t exist anymore in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.”