The leader of Labour in Scotland has hit back at John McDonnell’s claim the party would not block a second vote on Scottish independence, calling the 2014 referendum a “once-in-a-generation vote.”
The shadow chancellor caused a stir among Labour MPs north of the border on Tuesday after he insisted that the party would let Scottish parliament decide whether there should be another public vote on Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK.
“We would not block something like that,” McDonnell said during an interview at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. “We would let the Scottish people decide. That’s democracy.”
On Wednesday, Richard Leonard – who has previously said Labour would refuse to grant the order needed for another independence referendum – said he had told McDonnell that another vote was “unnecessary” and “unwanted by the people of Scotland”.
“The 2014 referendum was a once-in-a-generation vote,” the Scottish leader told reporters.
“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.”
But Leonard was not the only Scottish MP to condemn the comments from the Labour frontbencher.
Edinburgh South MP Ian Murrray called on McDonnell to “clarify his unhelpful freelancing”.
He tweeted: “Socttish Labour opposes a damaging and divisive Scottish independence referendum. The policy is set by the Scottish Labour Party and outlined in our last manifesto.”
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon – leader of the Scottish National Party – said McDonnell’s comments were “a statement of basic democracy”.
The reaction my Scottish Labour “goes some way to explaining the existential crisis they face,” she added.
But Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the shadow chancellor’s support for a second referendum was a ploy.
“Labour is proposing a pact with the SNP in order to parachute Jeremy Corbyn into number 10,” she said. “The fact is this – Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell would happily sell Scotland down the river if they thought it could give them a sniff of power.
“That is a rank betrayal of the two million Scots – including thousands of Labour voters – who voted to stay part of the UK.”