Sir Keir Starmer has confirmed he stands by his claims that if the SNP win Holyrood in 2021 they have a mandate for another referendum.
The Labour leader today insisted a vote was "not needed" but refused to rule out another referendum after being repeatedly confronted with the question.
Speaking to Sky’s Beth Rigby, Sir Keir first claimed the question was “hypothetical” and insisted he and Scottish Labour were focused on the "importance of rebuilding the economy in Scotland".
He added: “We will be making the argument going into that election that this is not the time for another divisive independence referendum.”
However, after being accused of avoiding the question, he admitted he stood by his comments from January this year that another vote on independence would be democratic if Nicola Sturgeon’s party win next May.
He said: “Well, these issues are questions for Scotland. I do stand by that.
“I am setting out the argument Scottish Labour will be making between now and next May.”
Sir Keir had claimed earlier this year the SNP would "have a mandate" for another vote if they won the Scottish elections.
Scotland’s voters went to the polls on the issue in 2014, with 55% voting no to independence.
But the SNP has campaigned for a second poll since the UK voted to leave the EU- pointing to the overwhelming support for membership with Brussels in Scotland.
The First Minister had hoped to hold a second independence referendum during the current term of Scottish Parliament, but wants support from the UK Government to ensure it is legally sound.
The Labour leader also today refused to say his expectations for what could happen in May’s elections.
He said: "In politics, people tell you with great certainty what is going to happen next year and the year after, but it doesn't always turn out that way.
"I am setting out the argument we will make into May. I am not doing a hypothetical of what will happen after that."
Labour is currently languishes in third in Scotland, with the Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard surviving attempts to oust him this month.
Despite refusing to rule out a referendum, Sir Keir insisted Labour needed Scotland to return to power.
He said: "Well look, I’ll be perfectly open about this, There is no route back through Labour that doesn't run through Scotland."
Once the dominant force in Scotland, Labour currently has just 23 Members of the Scottish Parliament, putting it behind the Tories on 31, and the SNP on 61.
The Labour party has not formed a Government with less than 40 seats in Scotland since 1955.
It came on a day the Labour leader demanded new support for businesses and workers and accused the UK Government of "serial incompetence" over the coronavirus crisis.
He said: "The prime minister and the government, collectively, are guilty, in my view, of serial incompetence - there have been 12 U-turns.
"I'm quite prepared to accept that a government will make mistakes in a pandemic like this and one or two U-turns are probably a sign of a government listening and then changing.
"But when you've got 12 in a row, the only conclusion is serial incompetence.
"We've got one of the highest death rates in the world, and we're heading - on current forecasts - for one of the deepest recessions.
"Our country is better than that, we deserve better than that."