THE SNP have hit back at Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion he would not agree to a second independence referendum “during the formative years” of a Labour government.

Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard said Labour should “get on the right side of democracy” after the UK party leader reportedly struck a deal with the Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard to delay any new plebiscite.

Earlier this month, Corbyn said that “it’s not up to Parliament to block” an independence referendum following similar remarks days before by shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Sheppard said that the latest remarks were nothing more than an attempt by Corbyn to “spare the blushes” of Leonard as the UK party leader arrived in Scotland for a three-day visit. The moves also follows internal Labour rows over a second independence referendum, which Leonard has vowed to block.

Polls show four in 10 Labour voters support independence – evidence, according to the SNP, that Leonard is not only out of touch with Scottish voters but also out of touch with his own party members.

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“It is unacceptable to try to block Scotland’s democratic right to choose – regardless of which party is in office at Westminster,” said Sheppard.

“And for Richard Leonard, as leader of the third-placed party at Holyrood to try and lay down the law on this issue is laughable – this latest move is nothing more than an attempt to spare his blushes.”

He added: “His UK bosses already know it is untenable to try and block a referendum given that the Scottish Parliament already has a cast-iron mandate to hold an independence referendum.

“It is up to the people and Parliament of Scotland to decide whether there should be another independence referendum – not a detached and broken Westminster system – and in a democracy, people are always allowed another say.”

The National:

According to a report yesterday Corbyn has agreed with Leonard that an independence referendum would not take place in the “formative years” of a Labour government, though he confirmed that his party would not block such a vote.

The Labour leader said if he was voted into Downing Street he would be focused on the “central priorities” of dealing with Brexit, ending austerity and acting to tackle the climate emergency.

He said: “In the formative years of a Labour government we wouldn’t agree to another independence referendum because we will be fully focused on these central priorities. However, if at some future point there was a legitimate and fresh mandate, we wouldn’t block it.”

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Leonard said he was in agreement with Corbyn on the timing of a possible second ballot.

He said: “Jeremy and I have agreed that, during the formative years of an incoming Labour government, we would not sanction a Section 30 order to allow a further referendum on Scottish independence to take place.

“It would also only be acceptable to a Labour government to allow a second referendum to proceed if it could be demonstrated that there was a fresh mandate for such a vote to be held.

He continued: “This would require a democratic mandate from the people of Scotland, which clearly signals the majority of people are in favour of a new vote.

“I do not believe the conditions exist for such a move today, nor will they for the foreseeable future.”