LABOUR’S John McDonnell has claimed a mandate for a second independence referendum would not be secured at the 2021 Holyrood elections as he was quizzed on the issue on the election trail yesterday.

The Shadow Chancellor said his party opposed a second vote on independence which he described as “irrelevant”.

He told Channel Four News: “In terms of Scottish referendum, we said to the Scottish Parliament we oppose a referendum. We do not want a referendum. It’s completely irrelevant.”

But pressed whether Labour would let Scotland have a new independence referendum, McDonnell responded: “They’re able as the legislation now stands to ask for one. We’re saying to do that they should have a proper mandate. And the next elections in Scotland could be one of those times they could get that mandate, but I actually think they won’t get the mandate.”

He added Labour wasn’t interested in a referendum in the formative years and it was “certainly not a priority”.

The SNP MP Pete Wishart hit back at McDonnell’s comments saying a second independence referendum was at the heart of the General Election campaign.

The National: Pete WishartPete Wishart

“This issue will be at the very heart of this campaign, and another win for the SNP will mean no Westminster government – of any party – will have a shred of democratic legitimacy in trying to stand in the way of the will of the people of Scotland,” he said.

“Only a vote for the SNP is a vote to stop Brexit and protect Scotland’s right to choose its own future as an independent country.”

READ MORE: Former Brexit Party politician warns voters to avoid Brexit Party

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has opposed granting Holyrood the power to have a referendum if the Tories win the election saying the 2014 vote was “a once in a generation event”, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he would not block a new vote.

The issue has been at the centre of the UK election campaign as in the event of a hung parliament the SNP could prop a minority Labour government but in return demand a Section 30 order to hold a new vote on independence.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to have a second independence referendum in the second half of year next and will demand the required Section 30 order to hold the new vote from whoever wins the December election.

Elsewhere on the election trail a remain alliance has been formed in three constituencies in Northern Ireland in a bid to prevent DUP MPs winning the seats.

Sinn Fein announced it will stand aside in South Belfast, East Belfast and North Down. The party’s president Mary Lou McDonald urged supporters to instead back the SDLP, the Alliance Party and independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon respectively in those three seats.

The National: Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald

She said: “In many ways this is a once-in-a-generation election, the stakes are very high in this election.

“People have a fundamental choice to make - to vote for a positive, inclusive future or to turn their backs on that and to back candidates who have been the architects of Brexit and who have acted very, very deliberately against the democratic wishes of people here in the north and more fundamentally against the economic and social interests of citizens who live here.”

READ MORE: SNP write to BBC over 'basic errors' – including on party's name

She added: “You can call this a pact, you can call it what you wish - the reality is we are asking people to come out and vote for those pro-Remain candidates. We believe that is the right and progressive thing to do.”

McDonald said it sat comfortably with her to urge Sinn Fein supporters to vote for a unionist in the form of Lady Sylvia Hermon.

“It sits very comfortably with me to ask and invite voters to thoughtfully do the right thing,” she said.

“And in this case it means defying hard Brexiteers, the likes of Nigel Dodds, the likes of the DUP candidates who have very, very recklessly acted against the interests of everybody.

“Whether you call yourself a unionist or a nationalist, a republican or a loyalist, we actually have many, many interests in common.”

Meanwhile, Corbyn told the weekly meeting of the shadow cabinet that Labour had enjoyed a “fantastic first few days” to the campaign.

“This election is a chance to bring our divided country back together while the Tories and the Lib Dems only seek further division,” he said.

Corbyn also said he had made a unilateral decision to back Johnson’s decision to go for a December election, despite the objections of some colleagues, including chief whip Nick Brown.