Scottish Labour leader tells John McDonnell voters do not want second independence referendum amid bitter row

Posted On: 
8th August 2019

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has told John McDonnell that voters do not want a second independence referendum, amid open warfare in the party over a fresh poll.

John McDonnell (left) spoke to the Scottish Labour leader (right).
Credit: 
PA

Mr Leonard hit back after the Shadow Chancellor signalled a dramatic shift in Labour's policy on Tuesday when he told an event at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that the party "would not block" a new vote on breaking up the UK if the Scottish Parliament backed one. 

Mr McDonnell then doubled down on Wednesday when he again made clear that a Labour government would not allow itself to be "set up" by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon by allowing her to say demands for a referendum were being snubbed by the "big bad English yet again".

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But Mr Leonard said he had made clear that the party's official policy was still to oppose a referendum.

The Scottish Labour leader told the BBC he had spoken to the Shadow Chancellor to put across the "the very clear view that the people of Scotland do not want a second independence referendum and also to remind him that the last independence referendum was supposed to be once in a generation".

He said: "I'm clear that the Labour party's position at the moment is opposition to second independence referendum. And you know John McDonnell has got far more priorities as an incoming Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with than re-running a referendum that only took place in 2014."

Mr Leonard added: "I was elected 18 months ago directly by the members of the Scottsh Labour Party, and one of the parts of the platform I stood on was clear opposition to a second independence referendum.

"So I think it's pretty clear where I stand, it's pretty clear where the membership of the Scottish Labour Party stand and that's the view that we'll be communicating.

"We will be doing everything we can do to make sure it is in the Labour manifesto for the general election, whenever it comes."

'UPHEAVAL'

The comments from Mr Leonard - seen as a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn in Scotland - come after a dozen Labour candidates set to contest seats at the next general election made clear their own opposition to holding another independence referendum.

In an open letter they said: "We want to make it clear: we oppose another independence referendum; we are against the uncertainty and economic upheaval that leaving the UK would cause and; as the Tories threaten our place in Europe, we do not believe the answer to nationalism is more nationalism."

Meanwhile Ian Murray, the Labour MP for Edinburgh South, urged Mr McDonnell to say sorry to Mr Leonard.

The MP said: "He’s got a lot of explaining to do, but firstly I think he should apologise to Richard Leonard because Richard Leonard is right. The policy is 'no to a second independence referendum'."