Scottish Labour ‘reach agreement’ with Jeremy Corbyn over second independence referendum

Richard Leonard. Picture:  Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Richard Leonard. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
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The leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard, has reached an agreement with Jeremy Corbyn over the timing of any second Scottish independence referendum under a UK Labour government.

After weeks of internal rows about a second vote, the two leaders have reached a deal that would see no referendum granted in the “formative years” of an incoming Labour government.

The party was gripped by a furious row over the issue in the last month after shadow chancellor John McDonnell overturned Labour’s policy on opposing a second referendum during two Edinburgh Festival Fringe events.

However, Mr Leonard last night said that he and Mr Corbyn had reached an accord on the issue. He said: “Jeremy and I have agreed that, during the formative years of an incoming Labour government, we would not sanction a Section 30 order to allow a further referendum on Scottish independence to take place.”

He added: “It would also only be acceptable to a Labour government to allow a second referendum to proceed if it could be demonstrated that there was a fresh mandate for such a vote to be held.

“This would require a democratic mandate from the people of Scotland, which clearly signals the majority of people are in favour of a new vote.

“I do not believe that the conditions exist for such a move today, nor will they for the foreseeable future. Instead I challenge the current Scottish Government to focus on the powers they already have and the ones that could readily be provided to the Parliament at Holyrood, to enable more decisions for Scotland to be made in Scotland.”

The deal was revealed in a day which was notable for the constitutional crisis surrounding the suspension of the House of Commons by Boris Johnson and as Mr Corbyn prepared for a visit to Dunfermline today.

Mr Leonard said that the priorities for an incoming Labour government would be to deal “first and foremost with the chaos of Brexit” and “to turn round a failing economy rather than usher in a second independence referendum. The current constitutional settlement should be respected and the issues that affect people across Scotland should be the focus of the Labour government at Westminster.

“I would hope that Nicola Sturgeon, or any future SNP leader, would recognise that investing in Scotland and repairing a decade of Tory damage would and must be the priority of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Prime Minister, and that the SNP’s obsession with separation would be well down the list of priorities.”

Mr Corbyn said independence was not the answer to a Johnson government as it would “prolong and intensify austerity”.

He added: “What Scotland needs is a Labour government that prioritises investing in Scotland, focuses on dealing with Brexit, ending austerity and tackling the climate emergency. In the formative years of a Labour government we wouldn’t agree to another independence referendum because we will be fully focused on these central priorities. However, if at some future point there was a legitimate and fresh mandate, we wouldn’t block it.”