John McDonnell adds to confusion over stance on independence referendum

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Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has added to the confusion over Scottish Labour’s stance on a second independence referendum, saying that a Labour government would “consider whatever proposals come from Scotland” on the issue.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard insisted that the party will include a commitment to refuse consent for a second independence referendum in its UK manifesto, following comments from Jeremy Corbyn that he would “decide at the time” how to respond to a request from Nicola Sturgeon.

John McDonnell at Broadcasting House yesterday.  On indyref2, he said Labour would 'consider whatever proposals come from Scotland'. Picture: PA

John McDonnell at Broadcasting House yesterday. On indyref2, he said Labour would 'consider whatever proposals come from Scotland'. Picture: PA

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Mr McDonnell said Labour had an “absolute commitment that at the minute we’re opposed to another referendum”.

The shadow chancellor said: “It is a complete distraction. Let’s concentrate on fighting austerity.”

But he added: “We’ll consider whatever proposals come from Scotland, of course. These are devolved issues that need to be discussed.”

Following last week’s budget, Mr McDonnell defended the Scottish Labour leader taking a different stance on taxation, saying Mr Leonard had “quite rightfully” refused to raise the higher tax band in line with Westminster.

The shadow chancellor has backed Philip Hammond’s Budget plans to raise the 40p higher income threshold to £50,000, saying it puts money in pockets.

People in Scotland are taxed at 41 per cent on earnings above £43,430 and Richard Leonard has said his party would not support raising that level.

Mr McDonnell said: “Richard Leonard, quite rightfully because taxation is devolved, put forward the Scottish Labour Party proposals.

“The intellectual basis is this – we all agree on the common principles of a fair taxation system. That has to reflect the demographic that we represent and also it has to reflect the devolved nature of our decision-making in our country at the moment.

“The Scottish Labour Party has actually come forward with their tax proposals which are based upon fairness, based upon raising additional monies that will be put into public services.

“That’s exactly the tax proposals and principles that we’re putting forward here.”

People in Scotland earning over £43,430 pay more tax than those in rest of the UK.

Some people on lower wages north of the Border are taxed less.

UK Labour’s position is to make the top 5% of earners pay more, Mr McDonnell said.