Pressure on Jeremy Corbyn as Scottish Labour backs 'people's vote' and staying in EU

Posted On: 
8th June 2019

Scottish Labour has broken ranks with Jeremy Corbyn by backing a second referendum in all circumstances and pledging to campaign for Remain if one takes place.

Richard Leonard and Jeremy Corbyn are now at odds over a second EU referendum.
Credit: 
PA Images

The party's ruling executive north of the border agreed to the major policy shift at a meeting on Saturday.

The dramatic change of heart comes just two weeks after Scottish Labour came fifth in the European elections and lost all of its MEPs. 

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Speaking after the new position had been agreed, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: " I am pleased that Scottish Labour’s executive committee has endorsed my call for the party to back a confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal with Remain as an option on the ballot paper.

"Scottish Labour will wholeheartedly campaign for a Remain victory in such a vote. Only Scottish Labour is building a radical platform for investment in people and communities, our industries and our public services."

However, PoliticsHome understands that Shadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird - who is a member of Mr Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet at Westminster - had argued against the change.

Previously, Scottish Labour had stuck rigidly to the UK party's line that a second EU referendum should only take place as a last resort and only to stop a "bad Tory Brexit" or a no-deal departure.

Mark Drakeford, the Labour first minister of Wales, announced last month that his party would also be campaigning for another referendum and for the UK to stay in the EU.

But on Friday, Mr Corbyn again insisted that his party “is not at the stage yet” of calling for another referendum, and would prefer a general election instead.

'DESPERATE'

The SNP said Scottish Labour had been forced into the move following its abject performance at the European elections.

Deputy leader Keith Brown said: "This is a desperate u-turn by the Scottish Labour party after it received its lowest ever share of the vote in the recent European elections, and grossly hypocritical.

"Scotland did not vote for Brexit yet Labour have been sitting on the fence over this for three years. It is clear that Labour’s prevaricating has had a disastrous impact on the party and this long overdue decision will not change that."

Martin Whitfield, the Labour MP for East Lothian and a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said: "The news that the whole Labour party in Scotland will be campaigning hard for a people’s vote is welcome. 

"Polls show Labour has lost four times as many voters to more overtly pro-PV parties than to the Brexit Party and now the party in Scotland is placing itself on the side of its members and its voters in calling for this crucial question to be put back to the people

"In Scotland and in Wales the party is swinging behind the campaign for a People’s Vote and now is the time for the whole party nationally to do so also. It is the right thing to do for Labour the lead the campaign for a People’s Vote from the front and I urge Jeremy Corbyn and those around him to follow the lead given today by the party in Scotland."

The UK Labour party has been approached for comment.