Labour to oppose independence referendum in next manifesto – Leonard

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Labour will include a commitment to opposing a second independence referendum in its next manifesto, Scottish leader Richard Leonard has said.

Mr Leonard will tell delegates at the party conference in Liverpool on Monday that Scotland does not need another vote on independence, but the election of a Labour government.

It comes after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he did not support another referendum but would “decide at the time.”

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Leonard would not confirm whether or not he had discussed his manifesto announcement with Mr Corbyn.

Scottish Labour conference
Richard Leonard (right) would not confirm whether he has Jeremy Corbyn’s agreement on the announcement (Jane Barlow/PA)

Asked whether he has spoken to Mr Corbyn and got his agreement that a future Labour government will not authorise a second independence referendum, he replied: “I speak to Jeremy Corbyn on a regular basis.

“We will be drawing up our manifesto because there is every prospect of there being an early general election and what I’m saying to you is that as somebody who will be a party to the drafting of that manifesto I will stand resolute on the question that there should not be a second independence referendum and I am expecting to get the support of the whole of the Labour party on that question.”

The independence referendum in September 2014 was held after the Scottish and UK governments signed the Edinburgh Agreement, allowing the vote to take place and committing both sides to respect the result.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed Mr Leonard’s announcement as good news for the SNP.

She tweeted: “Scottish Labour’s determination to remain alienated from swathes of its previous support as it attempts to out Tory the Tories on #Indy shows no sign of abating. Which can only be good news for @theSNP.”

In his speech to conference Mr Leonard is expected to say: “We don’t need another independence referendum to change Scotland, as far as I am concerned – we’ve just had one.

“The majority of people do not want one, and as we meet here this week with the prospect of a general election, I can make clear today that the next Labour manifesto will oppose another independence referendum.”

Mr Corbyn said in a BBC interview last week that he did not support another referendum but was “not ruling out” giving consent for a vote if he were to become prime minister.

Asked what he would do if First Minister Nicola Sturgeon were to seek the power to hold another vote, he told the broadcaster: “We would obviously decide at the time.”

He said: “We don’t want another referendum, we don’t think another referendum is a good idea, and we’ll be very clear on why we don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “So long as Jeremy Corbyn is Labour’s candidate for Prime Minister, no-one should believe a word the party says on independence.

“Only a few days ago, Corbyn said he wanted to hand the keys to another divisive referendum to the SNP.

“Richard Leonard was too scared to stand up to Jeremy Corbyn on anti-Semitism, and he’ll be far too weak to do so on separation.”

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