Scottish Labour leader won't step down ahead of Holyrood because voters want 'consistency'

Richard Leonard said his party will campaign against a second referendum in next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

Richard Leonard rejected the suggestion he should step down as leader of Scottish Labour.
Richard Leonard rejected the suggestion he should step down as leader of Scottish Labour.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said he will not step down ahead of the 2021 Holyrood elections despite polling showing his party in a worse position than it was in 2016.

Speaking to ITV Border, Mr Leonard said voters value “consistency” and “stability” and said Labour will oppose a second referendum at the next election.

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In 2016, Labour finished third in the list vote for the Scottish Parliament behind the Scottish Conservatives and second in the constituency vote, beating the Tories by 0.6 per cent.

The most recent polls show Labour languishing in third place, five points behind their 2016 constituency result and three points behind their list results from that election.

The comments also follow a new poll from Panelbase showing support for Scottish independence at levels which would directly reverse the results of the 2014 election.

Polling suggested that with undecideds excluded the results of a second referendum would be 55 per cent for yes and 45 per cent for no.

With undecideds included, the support for Yes sits at 51 per cent, No 42 per cent and seven per cent undecided.

Mr Leonard said: “Going into next year's elections we are clearly saying that we are opposed to a second independence referendum.

"The entire focus and dedication of the next Scottish Parliament and the next Scottish Government should be on rebuilding the economy, should be revitalising our public services, should be looking at how we can build a better care system which has been exposed as being fragmented and weak.

These are the priorities for the next five years, it's not independence, it's not constitutional change and we should not get bogged down in a debate for the next five years, a wrangle between an SNP and Tory administration.

"We should be focusing on the people's priorities which are about jobs, economic recovery, and public services.”

Responding to a question which noted Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had said the SNP would have a clear mandate for another independence referendum if they won the elections in 2021, Mr Leonard said Scottish Labour’s position was “clear”.

He said: “A lot of this has been framed in the context of if there were to be a future Labour government at Westminster, how would they react.

"What I'm saying is the position of the Scottish Labour party is clear that we are going into next year's elections saying we are standing on a platform opposing a second independence referendum."

Mr Leonard was then asked whether due to clear and growing support for the SNP and Scottish independence, was it time for him to follow Jackson Carlaw and resign.

The Scottish Labour leader rejected the suggestion.

He said: “No it's not. I mean, I was elected less than three years ago with a strong mandate from the members to lead the Scottish Labour party into next year's elections, we had a period where we had five leaders in six years and the Tories have now had three leaders in and one year in Scotland.

“I think that people are looking for consistency, they are looking for stability, they are looking for a clear message from the Scottish Labour party and I intend to get out there, to campaign for every vote.”

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