Labour would not block second Scottish independence referendum, John McDonnell says
‘We would not block something like that,’ says shadow chancellor. ‘We would let the Scottish people decide’
The remarks from Jeremy Corbyn’s close ally came after a shock poll – conducted in the wake of Boris Johnson’s visit to Scotland – showed a majority of voters would now back independence.
It also appears to contradict the party’s leader in Scotland, Richard Leonard, who said earlier this year a Labour government would “not agree” to a second vote, as he outlined his firm opposition.
In an interview at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with LBC journalist Iain Dale, Mr McDonnell said that any decision on holding a vote would be down to the Scottish parliament.
“It will be for the Scottish parliament and the Scottish people to decide that,” he said. “We would not block something like that. We would let the Scottish people decide.”
He continued: “They will take a view about whether they will want another referendum. Nicola Sturgeon said by late next year or the beginning of 2021.
“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.”
Labour’s manifesto at the 2017 general election claimed independence in Scotland would “lead to turbocharged austerity for Scottish families”.
The document added: “Labour opposes a second Scottish independence referendum. It is unwanted an unnecessary, and we we will campaign tirelessly to ensure Scotland remains part of the UK.”
Speaking earlier this year on the issue of a second referendum for Scotland, Mr Leonard said a Labour government would “not agree to to a second independence referendum”.
Mr Leonard added if Labour won a general election the party would refuse to grant a “Section 30 order” giving Holyrood the power to hold a second vote on independence.
“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.”
Following Mr McDonnell’s remarks, a Scottish Labour spokesperson insisted the shadow chancellor was “clearly not advocating a second independence referendum”.
“He made clear the huge benefit a UK Labour government will bring for the people of Scotland”.
On Brexit, Mr McDonnell said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would “never” step down if other opposition parties demanded it to form a coalition of national unity.
The shadow chancellor said:”It won’t happen. I think we’d form a minority government, seek to implement our manifesto and we’d expect the other opposition parties and other MPs to vote for those policies and if they don’t we’ll go back to the country.
“If they want to vote against a real living wage, if they want to vote against £70bn worth of investment in Scottish infrastructure, if they want to vote against a green industrial revolution to tackle climate change then so be it, we’ll go back to the people and then let them explain to the people why they wouldn’t support those policies.”
“We want to change the world, we’re not going be held back by other parties.”
Mr McDonnell’s remarks echoed comments from the party’s senior frontbencher Rebecca Long-Bailey, who earlier told Channel 4 News that Labour “wouldn’t countenance” a government of national unity.
“We think that we need to have a clear majority for a government in parliament, and that’s why we’re calling for a general election,” she said.
“What we don’t want is a national unity government that gives Boris some sort of get out of jail free card.”