Scottish Labour still opposed to indyref2 despite Corbyn comments

The party issued a statement clarifying its stance on the issue after interventions by Labours UK leadership over the weekend. Picture: John Devlin
The party issued a statement clarifying its stance on the issue after interventions by Labours UK leadership over the weekend. Picture: John Devlin
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SCOTTISH Labour has reaffirmed its opposition to a second independence referendum, but stopped short of calling for Westminster to vote to block one.

The party issued a statement clarifying its stance on the issue after interventions by Labour’s UK leadership over the weekend.

On a visit to Glasgow on Saturday for the party’s economic conference, leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was “absolutely fine” for another vote to be held.

Meanwhile, in an interview at the same event with BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said MPs would need to see “the nature” of any request for a second referendum before making a decision.

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Scottish Labour is firmly opposed to a second referendum. Our country is divided enough and we will vote against any SNP plans for another divisive referendum.

“As figures from across the political spectrum have said, including Ruth Davidson, Westminster should not block it if the people of Scotland want another referendum.

“But it’s quite clear that the people of Scotland don’t want another referendum. Nicola Sturgeon should immediately take the threat off the table.”

Ms Sturgeon has said another vote on independence is “highly likely” following the EU referendum result, and has made it clear she intends to push ahead with one if Scotland’s views are not taken into account in the Brexit process.

The First Minister insists she has a “cast-iron mandate” and could seek the backing of Holyrood within the coming weeks to ask Westminster for the legal power to stage the vote.

A recent poll showed Scots are split 50/50 on independence.

Mr Corbyn said: ‘If a referendum is held then it is absolutely fine, it should be held.

“I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda.”

In a statement later, he added: “Scottish Labour will oppose another referendum on independence. If the Scottish Parliament votes for one, we will not block that democratic decision at Westminster.”

Mr McDonnell was asked if he would vote against a section 30 order at the UK Parliament - the mechanism for transferring the power to Holyrood to hold a referendum.

He told Sunday Politics Scotland: “We’ll wait and see what the nature of the section 30 is. We’d have to see what the detail of that is.

“It’s a hypothetical question, let’s see what it is.”

He added: “How can we make a decision on something when we don’t even know what the contents of it is?

“We can’t vote for a pig in a poke, we want to see what the details are.”

Mr Corbyn’s comments angered figures within Scottish Labour, including MP Ian Murray and MSP Jackie Baillie, as the party seeks to establish a clear position on Scotland’s constitutional future.

Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale has set out proposals for a federal UK and a people’s constitutional convention to help shape it.

Asked about whether the plans were now Labour Party policy, Mr McDonnell said: “We’re starting the debate on this now.

“What’s Labour Party policy now is opening up this debate. That’s why Kezia is arguing we should have a constitutional convention of some sort.”

Commenting on Mr Corbyn’s remarks, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “At this time, people in Scotland who voted No to independence in 2014 want pro-UK leaders to demonstrate resolve against the SNP’s threat of a second referendum.

“Instead, the Labour leader has demonstrated that he is happy to let the SNP roll over him.

“It is a complete betrayal of the many thousands of voters who once looked to his party to defend our United Kingdom.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who says his party’s MPs would block a second referendum at Westminster, told Sunday Politics Scotland: “He (Mr Corbyn) just doesn’t seem to care about the United Kingdom sticking together.

“I know that’s not the view of my colleagues in the Scottish Labour Party. They must be tearing their hair out this morning at what he said yesterday.

“I find it astonishing that he can be so casual about the future of the United Kingdom.”