Embattled Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has told Nicola Sturgeon to forget a second independence referendum and clear up the “shameful” mess she has made in governing Scotland.
The party’s UK leader insisted he won’t quit and can win the next election as pressure mounts on his own position following the disastrous defeat in the Copeland by-election last week to the Tories.
Deputy leader Tom Watson led calls for unity in the party yesterday after a dramatic poll showed 77% of voters believe Labour has the wrong leader.
Mr Corbyn made the keynote speech to the party’s Scottish Spring conference in Perth yesterday and launched a stinging attack on the SNP’s decade in power at Holyrood over a slump in education, health and transport north of the border.
“That’s a record to be ashamed of,” Mr Corbyn said.
It came as Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday urged Scots to use their vote in the May council election to reject independence.
But SNP Deputy leader Angus Robertson hit back, accusing the SNP of “disrespecting democracy” in Scotland by backing the Brexit outcome after a majority of Scots voted to Remain.
The Labour leader insisted that “regular polling” indicates that support for independence is falling.
“There is no appetite for yet another referendum,” he added.
“To the SNP I say this, Listen to the people and respect democracy.
“The Scottish people are telling you to get on with your day job and start fixing the mess you have made.
“But maybe that’s too much like hard work for the SNP. Far better for them to call for another referendum to divert attention away from their appalling record on colleges, social care, the NHS and transport.”
He also slammed the Nationalists’ “bizarre” plans for independence which would include keeping the pound while leaving the UK to become an independent member of the EU - which the rest of the UK has left.
“I am not saying, and have never said, that Scotland couldn’t run its own affairs,” he added.
“Or that it does not have the talent and ability to do so. But I do think it wouldn’t be in the interests of working people.
“The links between Scotland and the rest of the UK are far deeper and stronger than those between the UK and the EU.”
Cuts to teachers and colleges, as well as a £1.5 billion reduction in the budgets for local councils in Scotland in recent years all came under fire from the labour leader yesterday.
And recent problems in train punctuality , after the franchise was handed to Dutch operator Abellio, was criticised.
“Scotland’s rail services were franchised to a Dutch state operator to help them subsidise their own railways back home
with the profits they make from Scots here,” he added.
“They give your money to foreign companies to run your railways and in return you get a poor train service!”
But Mr Robertson said Labour’s commitment to taking the UK out of Europe after the Brexit vote flew in the face of the “
democratic will” of Scotland where 62% backed Remain.
“That is grossly disrespecting the wishes of the Scottish electorate, and shows how deeply out of touch with Scottish opinion Labour have become,” he said.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s message is a stark and depressing surrender on a hard Brexit. There is a clear democratic mandate from
the people of Scotland not to be dragged out of the EU. To deny that mandate is to deny reality.
“But instead of standing up for Scotland’s democratic will, Labour’s answer is to cave in to right-wing Tory Brexiteers who are threatening Scotland with the economic cliff edge of a hard Brexit – that is simply unforgiveable.”
Mr Corbyn, who has already seen off one leadership challenge since replacing Ed Miliband in 2015, is again under pressure after the Tories seized the Copeland seat from Labour in a dramatic victory on Thursday, with the result marking the first gain for a governing party in a by-election since 1982.
Mr Corbyn told his party they must “remain united” if they are to win.
“The result in Copeland was deeply disappointing and of course I take my share of responsibility for it,” he said.
“We haven’t done enough yet to rebuilt trust with people who have been ripped off and sold out for decades and don’t feel Labour represents them.
“But now is not the time to retreat, to run away or to give up.”
He added: “If we stand together, I am confident we can turn back the Tory tide and reconnect Labour with our working class voters and values so we can win power to rebuild and transform Britain.”
A Comres poll in the aftermath of the by-election result found a fifth of Labour voters feel the party is too left wing - while 77% of non-Labour voters said the party had the wrong leader.
It came as the former Labour MP for Copeland has blasted shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti after she claimed voters in the Cumbrian seat had been neglected by Labour.
Jamie Reed suggested Baroness Chakrabarti was “the epitome of what Labour voters just rejected” in a series of tweets directed at the Labour peer.
Baroness Chakrabarti used an interview on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show to blame factors such as the media, disunity in the party and the poor weather for Labour’s humiliating by-election defeat.
She also said Copeland had been neglected by Labour, which prompted former MP Mr Reed to fire back on social media.
He said: “Shami and co. have no idea how much the Labour vote dislikes them. Even faced with the evidence.
“She’s an unstoppable vote-harvesting-election-winning machine. Or the epitome of what Labour voters just rejected. I wonder which one?”
Using the hashtag #TellShami, Mr Reed reeled off a number of projects such as new schools, hospitals and the Moorside nuclear reactors that had been achieved under Labour leadership.
Mr Reed also said the weather was not a factor in Labour’s loss
Baroness Chakrabarti blamed a whole host of factors for Labour’s by-election defeat in Copeland, as she refrained from criticism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.