Nicola Sturgeon backs Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit, as Labour leader accused of 'surrender' over a second independence referendum

Jeremy Corbyn has left Richard Leonard "dangling in the breeze" and "surrendered" to the SNP on an independence referendum, it has been claimed.
Jeremy Corbyn has left Richard Leonard "dangling in the breeze" and "surrendered" to the SNP on an independence referendum, it has been claimed.
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Jeremy Corbyn has "surrendered" to the SNP over a second independence referendum, it was claimed today, as Nicola Sturgeon said she would work with the Labour government to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Corbyn today said Parliament should not block a second Scottish independence referendum - backing remarks made last week by his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, whose comments sparked a war of words within Scottish Labour - and adding weight to suggestions he was making "overtures" to the SNP for its support if a general election resulted in a minority Labour government.

"It's not up to Parliament to block it," he said. "But it's up to Parliament to make a point about whether it's a good idea or not. I do not think it's a good idea."

He added: "I would advise that we don't have another referendum, I'm not in support of Scottish independence. What I am in support of is justice for Scotland, and that means investment in Scotland by a Labour government for the whole of the UK."

His comments were welcomed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who said "on this he's right".

She added: "It is legitimate to oppose independence and to argue against a referendum - it’s not legitimate for Westminster to block a democratic mandate and a majority vote in the Scottish Parliament for a second independence referendum."

Ms Sturgeon went on to say that she would be willing to work with Mr Corbyn if "it helps to avert the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit."

Mr Corbyn has asked all opposition party leaders and Tory rebels to install him as caretaker PM in order to stop a no-deal Brexit if Boris Johnson's government loses a vote of confidence among MPs. The Labour leader plans to delay Brexit, call a snap election and campaign for another referendum.

Already Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said she would not support making Mr Corbyn prime minister, but Nicola Sturgeon said: "We've made clear all along that we will work with anyone in Westminster to try to stop Brexit and avert the catastrophe of a no deal Brexit.

"I think the best thing in a Westminster context would be a for a general election or second referendum to give people the opportunity to change tack, but we'll work with anybody. But Jeremy Corbyn has to finally and firmly come off the fence on Brexit and stop trying to prevaricate. "I’m not a great fan of Jeremy Corbyn’s but we won't rule out anything to if it helps to avert the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit."

Mr Corbyn's comments on independence come a week after John McDonnell sparked an internal row on the divisive issue. Mr McDonnell was heavily criticised by Labour's MSP group at Holyrood following his comments at two Edinburgh Festival Fringe events.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard publicly re-stated the party's position against another independence vote, and the party's annual away day becoming a crisis summit on how to handle the deepening row, with MSPs being reassured by Mr Leonard that the party policy had not been changed.

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson has backed Mr Leonard's position on the issue, but yesterday, former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, said she "100 per cent" believed that Mr Corbyn would allow a second independence referendum in order to win the backing of SNP MPs in Westminster to form a government.

READ MORE: Scottish independence: Labour MP denies party ‘confusion’ on IndyRef2
Today Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said that Mr Corbyn had left Scottish Labour "dangling in the breeze".

He added: “Simply put, Jeremy Corbyn has surrendered on a second independence referendum. Both he and John McDonnell are preparing to hand Nicola Sturgeon the referendum she wants in exchange for SNP support for a Labour government.

“Scottish Labour has been left dangling in the breeze – they are utterly irrelevant even to their own party. It’s clear who’s in charge of Scottish Labour and it’s not Richard Leonard.

“It’s a complete betrayal of thousands of Labour voters in Scotland who support the Union. It shows once and for all that Corbyn cannot be trusted to defend Scotland’s decision to remain in the UK.”

Scottish Labour has consistently campaigned against holding another vote, with Richard Leonard previously indicating that the party, should it be in government, would refuse to grant Holyrood the power to stage one.

READ MORE: Kezia Dugdale: Labour's electoral maths means Jeremy Corbyn won't win a General Election
Mr Leonard has not commented on the latest row, despite his commitment to ensuring the next Labour manifesto would oppose a second referendum, but a Scottish Labour spokesperson said: "Jeremy Corbyn said that he is not in favour of Scottish Independence and that he believes a decision was reached when the 2014 referendum democratically affirmed Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom.

“Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard have made clear that there is no economic case for independence, especially with the SNP’s new position of ditching the pound and new policy of turbo-charged austerity to bear down on the deficit. What Scotland needs is radical reforming Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster.”

New Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said that Mr Corbyn's comments were opening up Scotland to another "damaging and divisive independence referendum".

He said: “Scotland benefits immensely from being at the heart of a strong United Kingdom and I am absolutely committed to strengthening the Union. We had a once in a generation referendum in 2014 and Scotland voted decisively to stay part of the UK. That needs to be respected.”

Responding to Mr Corbyn's comments, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie today said: “I feel sorry for Scottish Labour voters. They’ve been hung out to dry time and time again by a leader who gets it wrong on independence and wrong on Brexit.

“Anyone who believes in Scotland in the UK and the UK in Europe should lend their support to the Scottish Liberal Democrats. We are the true progressive force, standing up against those who want to put up new barriers.”