Scottish independence: Richard Leonard refuses to rule out IndyRef2

Richard Leonard has refused to rule out a second referendum on Scottish independence if Labour takes power at Westminster, but insisted such a vote would not be a priority if Jeremy Corbyn was to enter Downing Street.

Scottish Labour leader said a second independence referendum was not a priority for his party. Picture: John Devlin
Scottish Labour leader said a second independence referendum was not a priority for his party. Picture: John Devlin

The party has been accused this week by the Conservatives of “flirting with the SNP” after Mr Corbyn hinted he could allow an IndyRef2 as early as 2021 if Labour failed to win an outright majority and instead was forced to seek support from other MPs to pass its legislative agenda.

Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw today taunted Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood over the prospect of an alliance with Labour after her previous criticism of its UK leader.

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The SNP has made the right to hold a second plebiscite on the constitution a key plank of its general election campaign, with polls suggesting the Nationalists could significantly increase its number of MPs from the current 35.

But the Scottish Labour leader today claimed there was no appetite north of the Border for a further referendum - but stopped short of ruling one out.

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On a visit to a foodbank in Drumchapel, Mr Leonard said the party was in agreement on the issue.

“We are standing in this election to win an overall majority,” he said. “On the question of a second independence referendum, we have been quite clear that we oppose independence and we are opposed to a second referendum.

“We have made it clear that the priorities of an incoming Labour government would be to sort out the Brexit mess and to put the choice back to the people in a second referendum.

“We would also tackle the root causes of poverty that create the need for food banks like this. We would turn back the failed experiment of austerity.”

Mr Leonard was in Drumchapel to meet Patricia Ferguson, a former MSP who is standing as Labour’s candidate in the Glasgow North West constituency.

He continued: “Jeremy Corbyn’s position is clear, my position is clear - there is no appetite for, is no need for, and not the conditions for a second independence referendum.

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“In 2011, the SNP were elected with an overall majority at the Scottish Parliament. In 2011, there had not been a referendum on independence. By common consensus, it was the right thing to do under those circumstances, in those conditions. Those conditions do not prevail now.”

Asked if he would rule out an IndyRef2, Mr Leonard said: “It will not happen in the formative years of a Labour Government. It will not a priority of a Labour Government. The conditions do not exist now.”