Scottish Labour hits out at national leadership’s position on independence

The Scottish Labour party has raised “serious concerns” about the national leadership’s position on independence after John McDonnell said he would not block a second referendum.

The shadow chancellor made the comments at a Fringe event in Edinburgh on Tuesday and he reiterated his position at another event the following day.

His position contradicted Scottish Labour policy in opposing another referendum, with Edinburgh Labour MP Ian Murray branding the comments “utterly irresponsible”.

John McDonnell
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell (right) during an interview with journalist Graham Spiers (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Now, the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Party has issued a statement raising concerns with the national party.

It said: “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.”

The statement added: “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.”

Scottish Labour’s Annual Conference
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell with Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said he spoke to the shadow chancellor on Wednesday morning to outline his position on the issue.

Mr McDonnell said on Tuesday: “I’m not being set up by Nicola Sturgeon to blame the UK Government for blocking the will of the Scottish people – that’s too trite a political manoeuvre that’s been taken on at the moment.

“In the situation we’re in at the moment, my view is that we will not be blocking a proposal.

“The best way forward in all of this is to elect a Labour government. We’ll demonstrate what we can do and then I think the Scottish people won’t be interested in another referendum.

“But if they ever do come back, my view is you can’t be in a situation where you block it.”

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