RED WAR: Scottish Labour defies Keir Starmer as it opposes second independence referendum

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Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard defied Sir Keir Starmer as he said the party is opposed to a second referendum on Scottish independence. But UK Labour has not chosen a side after Sir Keir told reporters in January the SNP will have a mandate to hold a second vote if they win the 2021 Holyrood election. He added Labour would not block another referendum if there was a pro-independence majority after the election.

Speaking to ITV’s Representing Border, Mr Leonard said: “We are clearly saying that we are opposed to a second independence referendum.

“The entire focus and dedication of the next Scottish Parliament and the next Scottish Government should be on rebuilding the economy and revitalising our public services.

“It should be looking at how we can build a better care system, which has been exposed as being fragmented and weak.”

Presenter Peter MacMahon asked: “Is that the official policy of the Scottish Labour party and the UK Labour party because very early on when he was campaigning, I spoke to Sir Keir Starmer.

“I said if the SNP get a majority in the next election do they have a mandate for a second referendum? And he said yes.”

The Scottish Labour leader added: “A lot of this has been framed on if there were to be a future Labour Government at Westminster, how would they react.

“What I’m saying is the position of the Scottish Labour is clear that we are going into next year’s election saying we are standing on a platform saying we are opposing a second independence referendum.

“These are the priorities for the next five years – it’s not independence, it’s not constitutional change. We should not get bogged down in a debate for the next five in a wrangle between an SNP and Tory administration.”

The Holyrood election will be held on May 6, 2021.

On the ITV show, former SNP Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil also explained the difficulties Scotland would face if it were to create a customs border between it and the rest of the UK.

He said: “My argument is there would be a significant border between Scotland and England.


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“You’ve got to be honest about these matters because if Scotland was in a customs union i.e. the EU and the rest of the UK was not by definition, we have to have custom barriers between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“I don’t believe people in another independence referendum will vote for that.

“There is a better alternative and that is for an independent Scotland to join the European free trade association.

“That gives us free trade with the entirety of Europe, not just those in the EU through the European economic area without the downside of being in a customs union and many other downsides in relation to EU membership.”

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