Jeremy Corbyn would ‘open talks’ with Nicola Sturgeon over second independence referendum
Jeremy Corbyn has said he would open talks with the SNP over a second independence referendum if Labour wins the election.
The Labour leader added that he would “listen very carefully” to the Scottish government's views, but urged the Holyrood administration to hold off until the conclusion of Brexit talks.
Mr Corbyn's comments appear to put him at odds with Labour's own manifesto, which says the party would not support an "unwanted and unnecessary" second referendum.
In March, Nicola Sturgeon laid out plans to hold a second vote on taking Scotland out of the UK between autumn 2018 and Spring 2019, when Brexit negotiations should be drawing to a close.
Theresa May responded by saying "now is not the time" for another referendum - effectively ruling out the prospect of it happening for years.
But speaking to radio station Bauer Scotland, Mr Corbyn opened the door to the possibility of a Labour government giving the go-ahead for the poll.
He said: “I'll obviously open discussions with the government in Scotland and listen very carefully to what the Scottish Parliament says.
“I would ask them to think very carefully about it and suggest it would be much better to have this question dealt with at the conclusion of what are very serious and very important Brexit negotiations, where I am utterly determined to achieve tariff free trade access to the European markets to protect manufacturing and service jobs all across the UK, all across Scotland, Wales and England as well of course."
The Labour leader’s comments, made on a campaign trip north of the border, will further frustrate his Scottish counterpart Kezia Dugdale, who has focussed her party’s campaign on opposing a new independence vote.
Mr Corbyn was met with a furious response from within his own party in March when he said it would be “absolutely fine” for another referendum to be held.
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "Labour firmly opposes a second Scottish independence referendum. As our manifesto states, it is unwanted and unnecessary, and we will campaign tirelessly to ensure that Scotland remains part of the UK.
“The SNP needs to respect the verdict of the majority of Scots in 2014 and abandon its divisive plan to re-run the referendum. It needs to get on with the day job and reverse the cuts being inflicted on Scotland’s public services.
Mr Corbyn earlier ruled out once more any arrangement which could see the SNP prop up a Labour government following the election, after Nicola Sturgeon suggested her party would be willing to back a “progressive alliance”.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the issue raised questions of a “sweetheart deal” between the SNP and Labour should Mr Corbyn become Prime Minister.
"Nicola Sturgeon is desperate for a second referendum and will do anything to get it - even putting Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.
"The Labour leader has already said he's 'absolutely fine' with another referendum - so it looks like a sweetheart deal is in the offing.
This might suit the two of them but it would be a disaster for Scotland – dragging us back to more division just at the moment when we need to move on, together. I will always stand up for the decision we made to stay part of the UK and a vote for the Scottish Conservatives will help me send Nicola Sturgeon a message - no to another referendum."