Nicola Sturgeon has “no mandate” for a second independence referendum, Labour leadership hopeful Jess Phillips has insisted, as she said she would have turned down the Scottish First Minister’s request for a section 30 order if she was PM.
Ms Phillips used her first visit of the Labour leadership campaign to Scotland to make the case for staying part of the United Kingdom.
And while she insisted she was “not here to defend Boris Johnson” – who on Tuesday rejected Nicola Sturgeon’s call for Holyrood to have the power to hold a second vote on Scotland’s future in the UK, Ms Phillips said in the circumstances she would have done the same thing.
She told the PA Scotland news agency: “In the exact same circumstances I think I would have said no, because there is no mandate.”
After a general election campaign in which the SNP focused on Scotland having the right to have a second referendum, Ms Sturgeon’s party increased its representation at Westminster, winning 47 of the 59 seats up for grabs.
But Ms Phillips insisted the 45% of the vote the SNP won then was not sufficient to give the party a mandate for another independence ballot.
She said: “Only 45% of people in the last general election voted for the SNP, that isn’t a majority.”
Speaking about Ms Sturgeon’s calls for a second independence referendum following the SNP’s victory in the general election in Scotland, Ms Phillips said: “The thing is about every single election that happens, the politicians involved will use people’s votes to say exactly what they want.
“That was a general election. General elections shouldn’t be about Brexit referendums and they shouldn’t be about independence referendums, they should be about people’s lives. It should have been about education, it should have been about people dying on the streets from drug addiction.
“We’ve got to stop dividing and using people’s votes to mean what we want them to.”
While Scottish Labour has been split on whether there should be a second vote on the country’s place in the UK, with some senior figures north of the border speaking in favour of a ballot, Ms Phillips was clear that she did not want to see another referendum.
The Birmingham Yardley MP also said Labour had to take a clear stance on the big constitutional issues such as Brexit and independence before voters would listen to it again on topics such as education and the NHS.
She stated: “I reject completely that the only clear position is to have another divisive referendum, I think to take the clear position on the desire for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom… that is the clear message.”
She said: “Actually if there is a big constitutional question if you don’t clearly answer it, if you don’t clearly take a position, whether that is on Scotland leaving the United kingdom, or Britain leaving the European Union, if you don’t take a clear position you don’t then get to move the conversation on to the other things you might want to talk about.”
Making the case for Scotland staying part of the UK after speaking to party activists in a pub in the southside of Glasgow, Ms Phillips insisted: “I believe that Scotland is economically and with regard to security and all of the other things that matter deeply, I think it is better off in the United Kingdom and can’t stress how much I feel the United Kingdom is better off with Scotland.”
She said: “I’m not going to pretend I know the ins and outs of Scottish Labour or Scottish politics more generally, but I do know about UK politics and I do know the people in Scotland mean as much to me as the people in Birmingham, who I represent.”