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SNP has no mandate for second independence vote – Richard Leonard

The Scottish Labour leader also ruled out the prospect of his party agreeing any deals with the SNP in the event of a hung Parliament at Westminster.

Richard Leonard spoke at Maryhill Burgh Halls, Glasgow, at the official launch of Scottish Labour’s General Election campaign (Jane Barlow/PA)
Richard Leonard spoke at Maryhill Burgh Halls, Glasgow, at the official launch of Scottish Labour’s General Election campaign (Jane Barlow/PA)

By Lewis McKenzie, PA Scotland Political Reporter

Richard Leonard has said he does not believe the SNP has a mandate for another Scottish independence referendum.

Speaking at his party’s General Election campaign launch in the Maryhill area of Glasgow on Wednesday, the Scottish Labour leader said a decision on whether there is a mandate for another vote would need to be determined on the basis of future elections.

He added that he does not think the party would have a mandate even after the 2021 Holyrood election.

He said: “I don’t know how you can predict an election in two years’ time when one of the things which we are going to have to navigate is Brexit.

“The election of a Labour government in December will mean that by the middle of next year, the people will have a choice in a Brexit referendum.

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Mr Leonard launched the Scottish Labour election campaign in Maryhill, Glasgow, on Wednesday (Jane Barlow/PA)

“The premise currently of the SNP’s call for a second independence referendum is Brexit.

“In six months’ time, seven months’ time, we could have a Remain vote in a Brexit poll of the people, which will take away that argument completely.”

Mr Leonard made the remarks after Labour’s UK shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said the party would not stand in the way of another independence vote.

She told Sky News on Sunday: “After the next Scottish Government elections, if the Scottish Government determine they want to pursue another referendum and they go through the legislative process within their own Government to push that forward, than as a government we wouldn’t stand in their way.”

And on Monday, shadow chancellor John McDonnell told Channel 4 News that the next Scottish election could give the SNP a mandate for a vote, although he added it would not be a priority for a Labour government at Westminster.

Asked about his previous comments that a pro-independence majority at Holyrood would not be enough of a mandate to hold a second vote, Mr Leonard said on Wednesday that certain conditions for the last referendum in 2014 had been met.

Mr Leonard said: “I reflect on the fact that in 2011, the SNP got a majority in the Scottish Parliament election.

“There hadn’t been before an independence referendum and so there was common consent that they had secured a mandate to hold it. And we know what happened in 2014.

“So I have simply reflected on the fact that in a previous time, when a demand for an independence referendum was made, there were certain conditions that were met there.

There's no pact with the SNP, there will be no deals with the SNP, there will be no coalition with the SNP Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour leader

“In the future, there will no doubt be electoral tests and the SNP will go into elections seeking to get a mandate.

“I think we will need to decide on the basis of any future elections whether they’ve got a mandate or not.

“All I’m simply reflecting is that I do not think that the SNP has currently got a mandate and neither do I think after the 2021 elections will the SNP have a mandate in the future.

“Our policy is that we are opposed to independence, we are opposed to a second referendum.”

Mr Leonard also ruled out the prospect of any deals being struck between his party and the SNP in the event of a hung Parliament at Westminster.

He said: “There’s no pact with the SNP, there will be no deals with the SNP, there will be no coalition with the SNP.

“But we’ve said that we are standing in this election to form a majority Labour government.

“If we were a minority Labour government, we would draft a Queens’s Speech and it would then be up to the SNP whether they voted for that progressive, transformative Queen’s Speech or not.

“And if they did not vote for it, they would have to answer to the people of Scotland why they did not vote for it.”

Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said: “Richard Leonard’s assertion that Labour will come anywhere close to winning in 2021 is delusional.

“It was simply an attempt to distract from the big issue of this campaign – Labour’s weakness on indyref2.

“The truth is, when Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon attempt to strike a pro-independence alliance, Richard Leonard will be powerless to stop it.”

PA

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