Labour splits erupt as MSPs accuse John McDonnell of 'undermining' independence policy

Posted On: 
8th August 2019

Scottish Labour MSPs have accused John McDonnell of "undermining" the party after declaring a Jeremy Corbyn-led government would not block a second referendum on independence.

John McDonnell has angered Scottish Labour with his comments on independence.
PA Images

The Shadow Chancellor sparked a political storm by insisting the "English Parliament" should not stand in the way of another poll on separation.

Speaking at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he said: "We would not block something like that. We would let the Scottish people decide. That's democracy. There are other views within the party but that's our view."

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His comments put him at odds with Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, who said earlier this year that the party would turn down any request by the SNP to hold another vote.

In a hard-hitting statement, the Holyrood-based Scottish Parliamentary Labour Party said they "opposed a divisive and unnecessary second independence referendum and will campaign tirelessly to ensure Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom".

And they demanded talks with the UK Labour leadership about Mr McDonnell's explosive intervention.

They said: "The SPLP support the stance taken by Richard Leonard as our leader and back the policy position that he outlined.

"We deplore any attempts to undermine the official policy position of the Scottish Labour Party and we express serious concerns about an apparent change in Labour’s position on a matter of vital importance to the future of Scotland and of the Scottish Labour Party itself. 

"Scottish party policy is very clear – that is opposition to a second independence referendum. There is therefore an urgent need for the UK party leadership to engage constructively with the Scottish party leadership on the issue of the party’s stance on the future of Scotland. 

"We are clear Labour’s position on Scotland’s future is a decision for Scottish Labour, which the UK party must accept. We expect all Scottish Labour MPs and MSPs to vote in accordance with party policy."

In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn agreed with then Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale that the party's north of the Border should be autonomous from London.

In a joint-statement, they said that would "put beyond doubt the fact that decisions about Scottish Labour will be taken by Scottish Labour".