Indyref2 not a priority for future Labour government, says Richard Leonard

Allowing the SNP to hold a second independence referendum would not be a priority for a future Labour government, the party’s Scottish leader said, though he did not rule out such a ballot.

Richard Leonard said the “Scottish constitutional question” would not be one of the party’s key areas of focus if Jeremy Corbyn wins the keys to Downing Street.

Mr Leonard said: “There will be no deals, no pacts between the Labour Party and any other party, we are fighting this election to win a majority Labour government.

“Jeremy Corbyn and I agree that with the election of a Labour government, the priorities would be to end the era of austerity, to transform the economy, and would be to fix the Brexit chaos that has been created by the Tories.

“They would be the priorities for an incoming Labour government, not a second independence referendum.”

He faced questions on the issue after Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said on Wednesday that his party has not ruled out permitting a fresh ballot – saying: “We are not going to stand in the way of a second independence referendum.”

That prompted Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to say UK Labour is a “lot more democratic” than the Scottish wing of the party.

Speaking about UK Labour, the SNP leader said: “They oppose independence, they don’t want another referendum, but they recognise it is down to the people of Scotland to decide that question, that is a basic issue of democracy.”

Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw, however, claimed the First Minister would personally “roll out the red carpet” for Mr Corbyn outside Number 10.

Speaking on a visit to a Glasgow foodbank, Mr Leonard said both he and Mr Corbyn are “agreed that an incoming Labour government’s priorities would be to end the austerity that creates the need for places like this foodbank here in Drumchapel”, as well as to tackle the climate emergency and to “sort the Brexit chaos, which is to a large extent the trigger for this election”.

He continued: “It’s not on the Labour Party’s agenda. For us the reason why we are standing in this election to form a government is the country is facing a crisis over Brexit, the planet is facing a crisis over climate change, and this country needs to resolve some of the deep social and economic inequalities that we face and turn around our public services.

“There’s a huge agenda of things that need to be pursued and independence is not a priority in that. Holding a second independence referendum is not a priority.

“We’re clear about where our priorities are, they are not on the Scottish constitutional question.”

Mr Leonard said there is not a “fixed number” of seats Labour is targeting, but he wants to see a “significant increase” on its tally of seven Scottish MPs from the 2017 general election.

He said: “I’m not under any illusions that the fight that we’ve got ahead of us is tough.

“But it has never been easy for the Labour Party, going back to the very formation of it. We need to persuade people that the Labour Party is the only party that will stand up against Boris Johnson, get him out, but more importantly that we are the only party that offers an alternative that is radical, that will transform people’s lives.”

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