Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said it would be “absolutely fine” for a second referendum on Scottish independence to be held.
Mr Corbyn said he did not think that Westminster should seek to block another independence referendum if Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insists on holding one.
His comments come amid persistent speculation that Ms Sturgeon is about to demand a Section 30 order from Westminster, allowing a legally binding vote on Scotland’s place in the UK to be held.
She has repeatedly warned a fresh ballot is “highly likely” after Scots voted to remain in the European Union and the UK as a whole voted to leave.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has made clear her opposition to another ballot on the issue being held, with Scots having voted to stay in the UK by 55 per cent to 45 per cent in September 2014.
When asked if a second independence referendum appeared inevitable given the gulf between Ms Sturgeon goal’s of keeping Scotland in the single market and Theresa May’s plans for a UK wide hard Brexit, Mr Corbyn said: “If a referendum is held then it is absolutely fine, it should be held.
“I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda.”
But he stressed the importance of the economic ties between Scotland and the rest of the UK, and on the issue of further devolution stressed any new powers transferred north as a result of Brexit should go further than just Holyrood.
Mr Corbyn said: “I do think we should set it within the context of the economic relationship with the rest of the UK and the question of devolution of EU to English regions and to Scotland, and to parts of Scotland rather than just to the government in Holyrood, because the principle of regionalism is it goes to everybody within a region, not just to the central powers and the SNP have a bit of a tendency to centralise things around themselves.”
But he made clear that if there was a vote in the Commons on whether Scotland should have another independence referendum, Labour “wouldn’t block it”.
Mr Corbyn’s comments have sparked a furious response from Ian Murray, Scotland’s only Labour MP.
Posting on Twitter, he said: “Often asked why I resigned from Shadow Cabinet. Ladies & Gentlemen I give you Jeremy Corbyn. He’s destroying the party that so many need. Independence would be disaster for Scotland and my constituents. Supporting another Indy ref goes against wishes of Scots. Wrong then & now.”
Also posting to Twitter, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Always a pleasure to have Jeremy Corbyn campaigning in Scotland.”