Labour’s splits over Scottish independence burst into the open again yesterday as John McDonnell reaffirmed his pledge to sanction a second referendum in the face of an intensifying backlash from his party.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, was speaking at an event in Edinburgh on Tuesday. Today he reaffirmed his pledge to allow an independence referendum .
Despite being told by the leader of Scottish Labour in a meeting yesterday morning that there was “no case” for another referendum and condemned by more than a dozen Westminster candidates, Mr McDonnell refused to back down.
The shadow chancellor, who is Jeremy Corbyn’s closest political ally, dismayed his colleagues in Scotland on Tuesday when he made the significant shift of policy at an event in Edinburgh.
His intervention came hours after Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister and SNP leader, opened the door to a “progressive alliance” to oust Boris Johnson from Downing Street.
Speaking at another event at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday, Mr McDonnell said: “I’ve reinforced the view that a referendum isn’t the solution to the problems in this country. But I don’t want to use parliamentary devices to block it. I’m not in favour of blocking. I’ve said it time and time again in interviews.”
He was speaking shortly after he held a meeting with Richard Leonard, the Scottish Labour leader, who in March had claimed that if a Labour government took power in Westminster it would refuse to grant a section 30 order, which gives Holyrood the power to hold another independence vote.
Mr Leonard said: “I met John this morning and I made clear to him that a second independence referendum is unwanted by the people of Scotland and is unnecessary. The 2014 referendum was a once in a generation vote. There is no economic case for independence, especially with the SNP’s new position of ditching the pound and new policy of turbo-charged austerity to bear down on the deficit.
“On that John McDonnell and I are in firm agreement — what Scotland needs is radical reforming Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster.”
Speaking to Graham Spiers of The Times after their meeting Mr McDonnell said: “The reaction to Boris Johnson in Scotland, in my view, isn’t independence, it is electing a Labour government.
“Let us demonstrate what a Labour government can do to transform people’s lives, and if after a few years people want to come back and test the water on an independence referendum then fair enough, that is up to the Scottish people and the Scottish parliament.
“I’m not into blocking democratic exercises by any means, but I genuinely believe an independence referendum is an irrelevance to what we have got to do.”
He said attempts to manoeuvre Labour into blocking a referendum were “a set up by the SNP” to portray Labour as a “wicked government that prevented this happening”.
The combination of Mr McDonnell and Ms Sturgeon’s comments has raised hopes among senior Conservative figures that the party could replicate its successful 2015 general election strategy of portraying the Labour leader, at that time Ed Miliband, of “being in Ms Sturgeon’s pocket”.
The (London) Times
Editorial and entrepreneurial staff of Blogfactory do not necessarily subscribe to (or agree with) every point of view,or the views expressed and are not responsible for any inaccurate, incorrect or offensive statements in this article.