Labour opens door to deal for Indyref2 af­ter elec­tion

●Party may be ready to back fresh poll in 2021 in ef­fort to put Cor­byn in No 10

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By SCOTT MAC­NAB Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

A post-elec­tion deal could done to al­low an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum af­ter the 2021 Holy­rood elec­tions if Na­tion­al­ist par­ties win a ma­jor­ity, se­nior Scot­tish Labour fig­ures have con­firmed.

Scot­tish leader Richard Leonard and Paul Sweeney, the party’s shadow Un­der Sec­re­tary of State for Scot­land, con­firmed the agree­ment could be hatched in ex­change for the Na­tion­al­ists’ sup­port in putting Jeremy Cor­byn into Down­ing Street if there is a hung par­lia­ment.

The com­ments were seized on by To­ries as ev­i­dence of an “Snp-labour al­liance” be­ing drawn up just days be­fore the elec­tion is held.

Ni­cola Stur­geon con­firmed again yes­ter­day she is “of­fer­ing sup­port” to a mi­nor­ity Labour ad­min­is­tra­tion – but the price would be an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum next year.

The SNP leader is to seek a sec­tion 30 or­der from the new Prime Min­is­ter be­fore Christ­mas to trans­fer power from West­min­ster – which has power over the con­sti­tu­tion al­low­ing a ref­er­en­dum to be staged on in­de­pen­dence.

Mr Sweeney hinted this could hap­pen af­ter the next Holy­rood elec­tion in just 16 months.

“We’re democrats and we re­spect the right of the Scot­tish peo­ple to self­de­ter­mi­na­tion,” he told the BBC’S Pol­i­tics Scot­land yes­ter­day.

“It’s a com­mon ground which es­tab­lished the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment in the first place.

“If there was an ex­plicit man­date, say af­ter the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment elec­tion in 2021, then it wouldn’t be for any Bri­tish gov­ern­ment to stand in the way of that.

“And David Mun­dell, for the for­mer Sec­re­tary of State for Scot­land, is ac­tu­ally in agree­ment with the po­si­tion. It’s ac­tu­ally a com­mon

ground across all par­ties in the UK that would be the sit­u­a­tion if there were an ex­plicit man­date. There cer­tainly isn’t one just now in our view and that isn’t some­thing we’d be go­ing into at this stage.”

He in­sisted there has been no talks with the SNP on this is­sue at the mo­ment.

Asked if pro-in­de­pen­dence par­ties win­ning a ma­jor­ity at Holy­rood in the 2021 vote would see Labour back a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum – in re­turn for SNP back­ing for a mi­nor­ity Labour gov­ern­ment – Mr Sweeney added: “It’s a pos­si­bil­ity, cer­tainly.”

He in­sisted no for­mal ar­range­ments were in place, but pointed to Tory claims that if there was an ex­plicit man­date in the next Holy­rood elec­tion it’s not some­thing a UK gov­ern­ment could stand in the way of.

Scot­tish Sec­re­tary Alis­ter Jack ap­peared to ac­cept this in a Novem­ber in­ter­view, but has since back­tracked and ruled out Tory sup­port for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum at any time.

Jeremy Cor­byn has in­sisted that he would not grant a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum in the early years of a Labour gov­ern­ment.

But Mr Leonard said yes­ter­day the “bat­tle” over the hold­ing of an­other ref­er­en­dum would be “won or lost in Scot­land”, dur­ing the Holy­rood elec­tions in 2021 or be­yond.

He added: “If as a re­sult of those elec­tions, as there was in 2011, there was an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity and a clear demon­stra­tion of sup­port for a party that was in favour of hold­ing a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, then Jeremy Cor­byn has said a UK gov­ern­ment will not block it.”

And Scots Tory leader Jack­son Car­law in­sisted that a Labour-snp al­liance has now been con­firmed.

“Paul Sweeney has set it out in black and white,” he said.

“A Labour-SNP pact is be­ing drawn up; it’s just a mat­ter of dot­ting the i’s and cross­ing the t’s. This is what could hap­pen by Fri­day if Stur­geon and Cor­byn suc­ceed.

“It means our Union is on the line this week. Ian Black­ford said to­day that he and Jeremy Cor­byn speak reg­u­larly, and he doesn’t ex­pect Cor­byn to op­pose the Na­tion­al­ists. So pro-uk vot­ers in Scot­land face the very real risk of an Indyref2 pact be­ing stitched up by the end of this week.

“PRO-UK vot­ers in Scot­land must act on Thurs­day to stop this hap­pen­ing. And it is only by vot­ing Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive and Union­ist that we can do that.”

Na­tion­al­ists say there is al­ready a man­date for an ref­er­en­dum af­ter the 2016 re­sult which re­turned a pro-in­de­pen­dence ma­jor­ity of SNP and Green MSPS. Op­po­nents say con­di­tions in the Green man­i­festo, in­clud­ing a one mil­lion strong pe­ti­tion, have not been met to trig­ger a sec­ond vote.

Ms Stur­geon warned yes­ter­day that if Labour seek to gov­ern with­out a ma­jor­ity af­ter a hung par­lia­ment, the party “would then have to get sup­port to get their poli­cies through”.

She added: “I would be of­fer­ing that sup­port.

“I don’t be­lieve Labour, if against all the odds and what the opin­ion polls say, they get into a po­si­tion to gov­ern and im­ple­ment their man­i­festo, they would turn their backs on that.

“My view here is that they should think about that prospect and imag­ine that on Fri­day Jeremy Cor­byn and John Mcdon­nell are in a po­si­tion of be­ing able to form a gov­ern­ment, I don’t think they’re go­ing to turn their backs on that.

“If they do, I think they’ve got some big ex­plain­ing to do.”

And SNP West­min­ster leader Ian Black­ford added: “I know Jeremy Cor­byn well, I have meet­ings with him on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, I know that Jeremy has sup­ported the right of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion right around the world.

“There’s no rea­son why he would not recog­nise that the man­date is not al­ready there and that he has to com­pro­mise on that po­si­tion.

“For us it’s very sim­ple the leg­is­la­tion is go­ing through the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment just now, we need to have that ref­er­en­dum in 2020.”

“I’m sim­ply say­ing to Jeremy Cor­byn and any­one else – re­spect democ­racy, re­spect that man­date is al­ready in place. Let’s have re­al­is­tic talks about trans­fer­ring that power to the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment.

“The Par­lia­ment on be­half of the Scot­tish peo­ple can then de­ter­mine the tim­ing of that. We want that ref­er­en­dum to take place in 2020 then we can move on.”

Scot­land’s First Min­is­ter and leader of the SNP has made it clear that her party would sup­port a mi­nor­ity Labour gov­ern­ment in ex­change for a com­mit­ment to back a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum next year

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