Scotland politics

Election 2017: Corbyn refuses to rule out referendum during Brexit process

Jeremy Corbyn speaks to media Image copyright Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn has refused to say he would block another Scottish independence referendum before the Brexit process is complete.

The Labour leader said he would allow a second vote "if the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people want it".

But he insisted he would urge Holyrood "very strongly" to wait until UK talks with the EU had been completed.

Nicola Sturgeon has said that a vote should be held "not now, but when the final terms of the deal are known".

Mr Corbyn said: "What I've said is that if the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people want a referendum, they have the right to do that.

"That was the whole point of the devolution agreement of the 1990s.

"I think the referendum should take place, if there is to be one, after the Brexit negotiations are concluded because this is the most important thing."

Nicola Sturgeon has previously called for a second vote on Scotland's constitutional future between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

Launching the SNP's general election manifesto in Perth, Ms Sturgeon said opposition to an independence referendum would be "democratically unsustainable" if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats.

The manifesto includes a call for a vote on independence to be held "at the end of the Brexit process".

This has been rejected by Theresa May, who insists "now is not the time" despite a majority in the Scottish Parliament favouring a referendum in principle.

'Good agreements'

Speaking during a visit to a nursery in Westminster, Mr Corbyn said he would call on the SNP to "think again" and that he would "appeal to the Scottish people to think again on this".

He said: "Let's deal with the Brexit negotiations first, it's absolutely key that we get tariff-free trade access to the European market, our manufacturing industry relies on that.

"It's also important we have good agreements with Europe in the future in respect of management of the sea and all the other conditions that we've gained out of European membership."

Asked again if he would block a referendum if Holyrood passed a motion for it before Brexit is complete, Mr Corbyn replied: "We would discuss it with them and urge them very strongly to put it back until after the Brexit talks have been concluded.

"I think there would be a reasonable agreement around that because, after all, in Scotland the issues are actually poverty, actually on investment, actually on the housing needs of the people of Scotland.

"A Labour government would do a great deal to assist all the people of Scotland on those."

'Not a gaffe'

The Scottish Conservatives said Mr Corbyn's comments proved that only they could be trusted to stand up for the Union.

The party's Murdo Fraser MSP said: "Mr Corbyn's comment today proves that his statement yesterday that he was 'open' to discussions on a second referendum wasn't a gaffe.

"If he's elected prime minister, he really would be prepared to sit down with Nicola Sturgeon and discuss her plan for a second referendum.

"His comments in the last 24 hours have exposed Scottish Labour's claim to be opposed to a second referendum as a complete sham.

"Mr Corbyn would sell us all out in Scotland in a heartbeat."

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have described Mr Corbyn's position on independence as "confused and chaotic".

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