Belfast Telegraph

Swann urges Corbyn to clarify his party's stance on border poll

Labour leader: Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader: Jeremy Corbyn

By Staff Reporter

Jeremy Corbyn has been asked to spell out his position on the Union and the calling of a border poll in Northern Ireland after his right-hand man suggested Labour wouldn't block a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has written to the Labour leader after shadow chancellor John McDonnell refused to back down from his position that the party would not block a second Scottish independence poll - despite facing a growing backlash from some party figures.

Mr McDonnell's comments at a fringe event in Edinburgh on Tuesday contradicted Scottish Labour policy in opposing another referendum, while Edinburgh Labour MP Ian Murray called the comments "utterly irresponsible".

When asked whether his comments could be seen as reversing the party's policy, Mr McDonnell reiterated his position that such a request should not be blocked.

"Our view is that another independence referendum is irrelevant, we've got to concentrate on the real issues facing people and yes, there will be a debate about the attitude of the UK parliament and I've made my view clear on that," he said.

"My view is exactly in line with (Labour leader in Scotland) Richard Leonard, which is we concentrate on the real issues, the independence referendum is a complete diversion.

"But I've also said continuously, I'm not being set up by (SNP leader) Nicola Sturgeon to blame the UK Government for blocking the will of the Scottish people - that's too trite a political manoeuvre that's been taken on at the moment.

"In the situation we're in at the moment, my view is that we will not be blocking a proposal.

"The best way forward in all of this is to elect a Labour government. We'll demonstrate what we can do and then I think the Scottish people won't be interested in another referendum.

"But if they ever do come back, my view is you can't be in a situation where you block it."

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said he spoke to the shadow chancellor yesterday to outline his position on the issue.

He said: "I made clear to him that a second independence referendum is unwanted by the people of Scotland and it is unnecessary.

"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."

UUP leader Robin Swann said Mr McDonnell's comments set "a very worrying and dangerous precedent for the future of the United Kingdom".

The MLA added: "It also raises questions for Jeremy Corbyn. Does he back Mr McDonnell's comments or does he back official Labour Party policy?

"I have written to Jeremy Corbyn asking him to clarify his position on a second Scottish Independence referendum and that of his party.

"The reason I do so is because the Labour Party could potentially be in government and therefore would be in a position to have a very direct impact on the future of the whole of the UK.

"The comments from the shadow chancellor stand in direct contradiction of Labour Party policy.

"If that is John McDonnell's view on Scottish independence, what is his view about Northern Ireland's place within the Union and the calling of a border poll?

"Does he and the Labour Party stand in support of the Union or do they stand on the side of Irish unity?"

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