One of Labour’s most senior parliamentarians has warned a chaotic no-deal Brexit would push him towards supporting Scottish independence, and criticised Richard Leonard’s stand against holding a second independence referendum.
Labour MEP David Martin said he feared the UK’s exit from the EU could turn England into “a very insular, inward looking country”, which could also change his mind on Scotland’s place in the Union.
Last month Scottish Labour leader Leonard restated his party’s opposition to allowing the second independence referendum to take place under any circumstances, saying the next UK manifesto would include a pledge not to allow such a vote.
Martin, who has represented Scotland in the European Parliament for more than 34 years, said the Scottish people should have the final say on whether another referendum is called.
“I disagree with Richard,” the Labour MEP said, speaking to journalists in Brussels. “If we leave the EU in acrimonious circumstances and there is a mood for a second independence referendum, then I think the Scottish people should have the right to make that decision.”
Martin said he had not discussed the issue with his leader in Edinburgh.
The fresh commitment from Leonard came after comments from UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said in a recent interview he was “not ruling out” a new independence referendum and would decide “at the time” whether to grant a request from Holyrood for the powers to hold one.
Some of Corbyn’s advisers believe that in order to win back votes from the SNP, Labour should take a softer line, while senior figures in Scotland are convinced that would only fuel the Conservative revival.
“Jeremy Corbyn might be closer to me on that than Richard Leonard,” Martin said.
Asked how he would vote if there was a second Scottish independence referendum, Martin added: “It really would depend on the circumstances.
“If we leave without a deal and it’s a complete crisis, then I think that does edge towards the idea of independence.
“If we leave in a civilised, constructive manner, then it starts to depend on what the future trading relationship is and what the other relationships are. Frankly, what worries me more than Brexit is whether England is becoming a very insular, inward-looking country.
“And if it does continue down that path, then it would make me change my mind about remaining in the UK.
“I did campaign hard in 2014 for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom because my own politics are to look outwards; to look outwards from Scotland to the UK and from the UK to Europe.
“But if we become an insular country, it would make me reassess my view.”
Martin said an independent Scotland could rejoin the EU within three years and would be able to escape the requirement that new member states commit to joining the single European currency.
The 64-year-old confirmed he would retire from politics after Brexit.
Elected to the European Parliament in 1984, he is the second longest serving MEP in the 751-seat legislature.