SNP warned by Starmer another ‘divisive’ independence referendum not a priority for Scots

Nicola Sturgeon has ‘no option’ but independence says expert

Sir Keir admitted the status quo “isn’t working” but that holding another independence referendum is not the solution to that issue. But he hit back at comments from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who suggested a second referendum should not take place until 2055. The Labour leader told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I don’t think there should be another referendum. I don’t think a further, divisive referendum is the right way forward.

“But I do accept that the status quo isn’t working.

“I don’t accept the argument that if the status quo isn’t working, the next thing you do is go to a referendum.

“I think there are other things you can do, other arguments that could be made in support of the United Kingdom.”

Sir Keir added: “We’re in the middle of a pandemic, probably the darkest moment of the pandemic in Scotland, as much of the rest of the United Kingdom.

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“The idea that the only discussion we’re having about Scotland is whether there should be a referendum when the health service is on it’s knees, the economy is really under strain, lots of people and families are struggling in Scotland for their jobs and the future – and every time we talk about Scotland the only question is should there be another referendum.”

The Labour leader was also asked about the comments from Mr Johnson that another independence referendum should not be held for another 35 years.

He responded: “If you asked the people of Scotland what their priorities are, and this has been asked many times in the last nine months, most of them understandably say the economy, jobs, health, public services.”

Later on Sunday, Nicola Sturgeon’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney sparked a furious reaction after insisting a second independence referendum was a “critical response” to the coronavirus crisis.

Responding to the earlier comments from Sir Keir, he told the BBC’s Politics Scotland: “An independence referendum is an essential priority for the people of Scotland, because it gives us the opportunity to choose how we decide to rebuild as a country from Covid.

“It would give us the opportunity to design another constitutional future and to determine the nature of our economy and the way in which we deal with and support our citizens.

“It’s a critical response to Covid.”

But Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, raged: “These are grossly irresponsible remarks and an insult to all those working to bring people together in the face of this pandemic.

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“Polls show that people do not think another divisive referendum is a priority, with only 11 percent Scots choosing it among the most important issues facing Scotland.

“No responsible politician would even contemplate a second referendum when the entire focus should be on rebuilding our economy and public services.

“The SNP is obsessed with how to tear communities apart, but we are stronger together as part of the UK and we can ensure a successful recovery by working together.”

Scottish Conservative Shadow Constitution Spokesman Dean Lockhart said: “It beggars’ belief that John Swinney feels another divisive independence referendum is a priority for Scotland while we are continuing to deal with a global pandemic.

“The SNP Government must be fully focused on ensuring the vaccine programme is successfully rolled out as it is what is giving people hope right now.

“They must also urgently get hundreds of millions out the door that they have from the UK Government to people and businesses who are worried about their jobs and livelihoods as current restrictions continue.

“That’s where the Deputy First Minister’s priorities for Scotland should be rather than dragging the country back to the divisions of the past.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard added: “We learnt from polling just last month that four out of five Scottish voters – including almost two-thirds of SNP supporters – want the Scottish Government to prioritise the recovery from the public health and economic crises over a second independence referendum.

“This is another example of the SNP failing to recognise Scotland’s priorities. Now is not the time for another referendum.

“Scotland’s priorities are jobs, our NHS and our children’s education.”

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