News | Published August 07 2019

Labour won't prevent second referendum on Scottish independence, McDonnell says

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said that a Labour government would not stand in the way of a second Scottish independence referendum during an interview at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

McDonnell also promised to “move heaven and earth” to prevent a no-deal Brexit, calling new prime minister Boris Johnson “reckless and unstable”.

Speaking to LBC, McDonnell said it was up to the “Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people” as to whether a second referendum on independence would happen.

He said: "They will take a view about whether they want another referendum.

"We would not block something like that. We would let the Scottish people decide. That's democracy. There are other views within the party but that's our view."

However, his colleague, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, has previously said that the party would not allow a second independence referendum to take place.

Back in March, Leonard told the BBC that should Labour assume power in Westminster, a Section 30 order to hand a second referendum to Holyrood would not be granted.

Leonard said: "What we said in the manifesto at the 2017 election was that there is no case for, and we would not support, a second independence referendum."

The Scottish independence discussion has risen again this week after a Lord Ashcroft opinion poll revealed a majority of 1,019 Scots interviewed would favour independence.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has also said that there is a “growing sense of urgency” for Scottish independence during an interview with LBC’s Iain Dale.

Now, the shadow chancellor appears to be in favour of giving Scotland the choice again.

During his LBC interview, McDonnell also said: "The Scottish Parliament will come to a considered view on that [Scottish independence] and they will submit that to the government and the English Parliament itself.

"If the Scottish people decide they want a referendum that's for them.”

McDonnell’s party colleague, Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray, took aim at his comments, labelling them “utterly irresponsible and a “betrayal of the Labour party’s values”.

Murray added: "The Labour Party is an internationalist party founded on a vision of solidarity and we should never seek to appease nationalists, whether they be for Brexit or Scottish independence, who want to divide communities and people.”

The shadow chancellor’s comments have also come under attack from elsewhere. Willie Rennie, the Scottish Lib Dem leader, echoed Murray’s words and branded McDonnell’s comments “astonishingly irresponsible”.

Rennie said: "It's bad enough with Boris Johnson bungling on Brexit and independence but to have the Labour Party's chancellor piling in makes it a whole lot worse”.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon responded to McDonnell by tweeting that his response supported "basic democracy” and it made “political sense” for Labour not to block a second independence referendum.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
August 07 2019

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