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'Let the people decide'

Leonard rebukes McDonnell over second independence vote comments

John McDonnell

John McDonnell: ‘there are other views in the party’ (pic: Terry Murden)

UPDATED 11.30am: Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has told Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell that a second independence referendum is not wanted in Scotland.

Mr McDonnell told an audience in Edinburgh last night that Labour would allow the Scottish people to decide whether to stage a second independence referendum, contradicting party policy in Scotland.

But Mr Leonard today met Mr McDonnell to tell spell out Scottish Labour’s policy on the issue.

“I met with John this morning, and I made clear to him that a second independence referendum is unwanted by the people of Scotland and it is unnecessary,” said Mr Leonard in a statement.

““The 2014 referendum was a once in a generation vote. There is no economic case for independence, especially with the SNP’s new position of ditching the pound and new policy of turbo-charged austerity to bear down on the deficit.

On that John McDonnell and I are in firm agreement – what Scotland needs is radical reforming Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster.”

Speaking at an event at the Edinburgh Fringe, Mr McDonnell admitted that Labour was divided on the issue but said it was a democratic right of the Scots to determine their own future.

His remarks came after a poll – conducted in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Scotland – showed a majority of voters would now back independence.

Interviewed by the broadcaster Iain Dale, Mr McDonnell said: “We would not block something like that. We would let the Scottish people decide. That’s democracy.”

“There are other views within the party, but that’s our view.”

Scottish Labour policy and the formal position of the UK party is not to support another vote on independence. Scottish leader Richard Leonard said earlier this year that a Labour government would “not agree” to a second vote.

But Mr McDonnell said: “It will be for the Scottish parliament and the Scottish people to decide that. They will take a view about whether they want another referendum. Nicola Sturgeon said by late next year or the beginning of 2021.

“The Scottish parliament will come to a considered view on that and they will submit that to the government and the English parliament itself.”

Ian Murray, Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South, accused Mr McDonnell of an “utterly irresponsible thoughtless rant” that betrayed the party’s values.

“The Labour party is an internationalist party founded on a vision of solidarity and we should never seek to appease nationalists,” he said.

Recent opinion polls have shown Labour languishing third in Scotland with less than 20% of the vote, while support for the SNP is close to 40%. Analysts say Labour has been badly damaged by party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to embrace a second EU referendum and remain.

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