Jeremy Corbyn has said a second Scottish independence referendum would be “absolutely fine” and that it “should be held” if there was demand for it.
The Labour leader indicated that he did not believe Westminster should seek to block a second vote if Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon brought one forward.
“If a referendum is held then it is absolutely fine, it should be held,” Mr Corbyn told the Press Association news agency after he was asked whether a second plebiscite was inevitable
“I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda.”
As a caveat, the Labour leader added: “I do think we should set it within the context of the economic relationship with the rest of the UK and the question of devolution of EU to English regions and to Scotland, and to parts of Scotland rather than just to the government in Holyrood, because the principle of regionalism is it goes to everybody within a region, not just to the central powers and the SNP have a bit of a tendency to centralise things arounds themselves.”
The position appears to put Mr Corbyn at odds with Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who has said she does not want a second vote and wants to move on from the independence issue. Shortly after Mr Corbyn’s comments emerged, the SNP’s Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Always a pleasure to have Jeremy Corbyn campaigning in Scotland”.
Scottish voters backed remaining in the UK by 45 per cent to 55 per cent in September 2014.
The Ms Sturgeon has said another independence ballot is “highly likely” if Scotland is pulled from the EU single market despite having voted Remain.
The First Minister, who won a renewed mandate in elections in May last year, said this week that the autumn of 2018 would be a “common sense” time to hold another independence vote.
She told the BBC that she was “not ruling anything out”.
Labour is holding its economic conference in Glasgow this weekend; shadow chancellor John McDonnell pledged to make Scotland the cornerstone of a new “arc of prosperity”.
“Labour’s “Arc of Prosperity” wouldn’t be based on slashing corporation taxes, as the SNP have advocated,” he told attendees.
Scotland goes to the polls
“It would be one that had Scotland as its cornerstone, within a more federal UK and benefiting from the shared values of our European neighbours.
“And in contrast to a Tory government in Westminster that wishes to turn Britain into a tax haven off the coast of Europe. Or the leadership of the SNP in Edinburgh, which seeks to cut Scotland self-off from not just Europe, but also Britain.”