Richard Leonard has been forced into a fresh commitment that Labour will oppose a second Scottish independence referendum after Jeremy Corbyn appeared to open the door to indyref2.
The Scottish Labour leader said the next UK general election manifesto would include a pledge to oppose a second independence referendum, insisting “there is no case” to hold another vote on Scotland’s constitutional future.
In an address to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool today, Mr Leonard will promise a programme of constitutional reform under a Labour government leading to a more powerful Holyrood within a federal UK, despite concerns that previous commitments to federalism have stalled.
Meanwhile, delegates in Liverpool will today learn whether they will get the chance to force the party leadership into supporting a second referendum on EU membership when the wording of a motion on Brexit for debate tomorrow is agreed.
Mr Leonard was forced to come out against indyref2 after Mr Corbyn suggested Labour could grant the powers to hold another referendum if he was Prime Minister.
“We want to be absolutely clear to the people of Scotland that there is no case for a second independence referendum,” Mr Leonard told the BBC yesterday.
“We just had a referendum in 2014.
“We think that settled the will of the people of Scotland and I don’t think there is any support for a second independence referendum, which is why we are going to categorically, in our manifesto in the lead-up to the general election, which may come as soon as later this year, state our opposition to the holding of a second independence referendum.”
Mr Leonard later told an event hosted by the campaign group Momentum that “the fastest track towards a more equal Scotland” was a Labour government rather than independence, and that Labour could win over left-wing independence supporters with its economic message.
In an interview earlier this week, Mr Corbyn said he would “decide at the time” what his response would be if the Scottish Government made a formal request for the power to hold another independence referendum under Section 30 of the Scotland Act.
The UK party leader said was “not ruling out” giving consent for a vote if he were to become Prime Minister.
Nicola Sturgeon welcomed Mr Leonard’s announcement as “good news for the SNP”.
The First Minister posted on Twitter: “Scottish Labour’s determination to remain alienated from swathes of its previous support as it attempts to out Tory the Tories on indy shows no sign of abating.”
SNP depute leader Keith Brown claimed Labour were “running scared of democracy”.
Mr Brown said: “There is already a cast-iron democratic mandate to give the people of Scotland that choice based on the 2016 Holyrood election and the subsequent vote in the Scottish Parliament.
“By blocking any attempt to allow the people of Scotland to have their say on their constitutional future, Richard Leonard is not only running scared of democracy – he is alienating many of Labour’s traditional supporters in the process.”
In his speech in Liverpool, Mr Leonard will promise that Labour would “rebuild Scotland with a federal Britain”.