Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has stood by his previous comments that the SNP would have a mandate for a second Scottish independence referendum if they win a majority at next year’s Holyrood elections.
In an interview with Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby, Sir Keir stressed that he was not in support of a fresh vote on breaking up the United Kingdom.
He described another independence referendum as “about the last thing that we need”, as he outlined his determination to win back those Scottish seats that Labour lost at last December’s general election.
“We will be making the argument…that this is not the time for another divisive independence referendum in Scotland,” he said.
“There are other priorities.”
But, pressed repeatedly on the issue, Sir Keir stood by his remarks from January, prior to becoming Labour leader, that – should Nicola Sturgeon’s party win a majority at May’s Scottish Parliament elections – then the SNP would have a mandate to hold another referendum.
“These issues are questions for Scotland, I do stand by that, I’m setting out the argument that the Labour Party and Scottish Labour will be making between now and next May,” he said.
In December, Labour won just a single seat in Scotland at the general election, with the party having not held more than seven seats in Scotland since 2015.
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As he seeks to return Labour to power after four general election losses in a row, Sir Keir admitted he would first need to reverse the party’s fortunes in Scotland.
He said: “I’ll be perfectly open about this, there’ll be no route back for Labour that doesn’t run through Scotland.”
Sir Keir also condemned Boris Johnson’s “serial incompetence” in handling the coronavirus crisis and called for fresh economic support for businesses.
Responding to Sir Keir’s interview with Sky News, Cabinet minister Michael Gove – the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – said: “Sir Keir Starmer has a problem accepting referendum results.
“He tried to block Brexit, and now he wants to work with Nicola Sturgeon to renege on the Scottish referendum result and break up the UK.”
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