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Labour accuses SNP leader of 'lie'

Sturgeon claims Dugdale offered to back indyref

Sturgeon at STUC
Nicola Sturgeon: bombshell revelation

Nicola Sturgeon last night accused Scottish Labour leader of going back on an independence pledge in a move that blew the general election campaign wide open.

The SNP leader said that during a private conversation following last year’s Brexit vote her Labour counterpart Kezia Dugdale had promised that Labour would not stand in the way of a second referendum.

Ms Dugdale fiercely denied that claim, made during last night’s television debate, and accused the First Minister of a “categoric lie”.

In the course of a fractious debate on STV, Ms Sturgeon turned to the Labour leader and said: “You and I spoke the day after the EU referendum and you told me then that you thought the change with Brexit meant that Labour should stop opposing a referendum.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson sought reassurance from the SNP leader, who confirmed that was the case.

The tories claimed the revelation blew a hole in Labour’s claim to be opposed to independence and another referendum.

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said: “This is a bombshell revelation which holes Scottish Labour’s entire campaign below the waterline.

“Kezia Dugdale has spent this campaign claiming she opposes a second independence referendum, now we learn she’s been having private chats with Nicola Sturgeon about her support for it.

“It is an utter disgrace and it proves that the only pro-UK vote at this election is for the Scottish Conservatives.”

Ms Dugdale said the claim was “nonsense”, but her denials follow her comment before the EU referendum last June when said she might back a Yes vote if Scotland was dragged out the EU. She later reversed her view.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also given mixed messages, stating the party’s opposition to independence and then suggesting he would open talks with the SNP on the issue. This latest revelation will be further evidence of Labour’s lack of clarity on the issue.

Ms Dugdale said: “The idea that I would do anything other than protect the United Kingdom is absolute nonsense.”

Ms Sturgeon replied: ” know what was said. I’m not having a go at you, Kezia. You are entitled to change your mind. I think what you are not entitled to do, though, is always to have a go at me just for wanting to give the people of Scotland a choice.”

Ms Dugdale later tweeted: “Any suggestion that I ever said to Sturgeon that I’d change Labour’s position on #indyref2 is a categoric lie + shows how desperate she is.”

The party last night attempted to dampen the issue which came just 36 hours before voters go to the polls. A spokesman said: “Ms Dugdale admitted that a discussion had taken place about Brexit,” but disputed Ms Sturgeon’s account.

“This is a lie from Nicola Sturgeon. It is insulting and demeaning to the office of First Minister. It is nothing but a final act of desperation from an SNP leader who knows the public has turned against her.

“It shows how far she is prepared to go in the hope of electing a Tory government.

“Kezia Dugdale campaigned tirelessly against independence in the 2014 referendum. She has always campaigned tirelessly against a divisive second independence referendum. The Labour Party will never support independence because of the turbo-charged austerity it would inflict on working people in Scotland.”

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