Jeremy Corbyn: Second Scottish independence vote 'absolutely fine'

Posted On: 
11th March 2017

Jeremy Corbyn has sparked fresh outrage within his own party after he said a second Scottish independence referendum "should be held".

Jeremy Corbyn and Kezia Dugdale in Edinburgh.
PA Images

The dramatic intervention puts the Labour leader firmly at odds with the party’s Scottish chief Kezia Dugdale, who has repeatedly railed against calls for another vote on Scotland quitting the UK.

Mr Corbyn, who had been campaigning in Glasgow, told the Press Association: “"If a referendum is held then it is absolutely fine, it should be held.

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"I don't think it's the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda.”

Scots last voted on the question in 2014, when 55% of voters backed No, yet Mr Corbyn added that if another poll was called by the SNP government, Labour "wouldn't block it".

He said: "I do think we should set it within the context of the economic relationship with the rest of the UK and the question of devolution of EU to English regions and to Scotland, and to parts of Scotland rather than just to the government in Holyrood, because the principle of regionalism is it goes to everybody within a region, not just to the central powers and the SNP have a bit of a tendency to centralise things around themselves."

His call comes just weeks after Ms Dugdale rallied party activists to “fight” against any fresh nationalist bid to take Scotland out of the UK, adding that the country still “bears the scars of the last [referendum]”.

Addressing her party conference, the Scottish Labour leader said: ““Our country still bears the scars of the last one, and no one wants to go through that again any time soon.

“That’s why Labour will never support one in the Scottish Parliament."

She added: “So if this country faces another referendum at any point in the future, I will work tirelessly to make sure that our side of the argument is successful again." 

Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly suggested a new vote is "highly likely", after Scots overwhelmingly backed staying in the EU, while the UK as a whole voted to leave.

The Labour leader has previously pledged his support for maintaining the UK, adding that independence would lead to “turbo charged austerity”.

Nicola Sturgeon today welcomed Mr Corbyn's calls, tweeting: "Always a pleasure to have Jeremy Corbyn campaigning in Glasgow".

The Labour leader is facing mounting anger within his own party following the intervention however, with one MP telling PoliticsHome: “It’s a moronic intervention and a complete gift for the Tories in Scotland. Jeremy Corbyn could f*** up a cup of coffee.

Labour MPs also took to Twitter to express their anger.

But a source close to Jeremy Corbyn said: "Westminster blocking a second referendum would give the SNP exactly what they want - more grievance.

"Kezia Dugdale is absolutely right to oppose a second referendum at Holyrood and to keep the pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to rule one out.

"However any hypothetical deal on a second referendum is highly premature as there would need to be lengthy negotiations around the timing and the question on the ballot paper, given the remain/leave precedent set in the EU referendum.

"All of these negotiations would happen at a time when the SNP should be focused on education, where attainment is falling, on the NHS, which faces a workforce crisis,and on our economy which sees 220,000 Scottish children live in poverty.

"Next week Nicola Sturgeon must rule out a second referendum and get back to the bread and butter issues."