IAN Murray has likened the debate over Scotland’s future with discussions over pedestrianising an English city centre.

Labour’s only Scottish MP made the comparison as he attacked his party’s UK leadership hopeful Clive Lewis for giving his views last week to The National on a second independence referendum.

Murray criticised the MP for Norwich South arguing he wouldn’t get involved in a debate about the pedestrianisation of Norwich’s High Street.

“I wouldn’t say that UK political parties have forgotten Scotland. I’d say that UK political parties to a certain extent don’t fully understand it,” Murray told yesterday’s Scotland on Sunday newspaper.

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“I wouldn’t go to a national newspaper in the southeast of England and say ‘I’m sorry but I disagree that Norwich’s high street should be pedestrianised’. I mean, why would I? I know nothing about it.

“I’d be sticking my nose into something that I really don’t need to stick my nose into, and I’d be talking shit.”

Lewis told The National last week that Scottish Labour should not block a second independence referendum if there was a mandate for one and that it should be up to Scottish Labour what policy it takes including backing independence. He said he backed a radical federalist view.

The shadow minister’s comments followed a BBC Good Morning Scotland interview with rival leadership candidate and Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips when she opposed a second independence vote. Murray did not criticise Phillips for expressing her views on Scotland on the radio as he hit out at Lewis.

The National: Jess Phillips, Labour leadership hopeful, Unionist, and friends with Jacob Rees-Mogg, somehow escaped Ian Murray's ireJess Phillips, Labour leadership hopeful, Unionist, and friends with Jacob Rees-Mogg, somehow escaped Ian Murray's ire

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP MP, said: “I thought Clive Lewis made a thoughtful considered intervention. It is ridiculous to compare the future governance of Scotland with traffic management decisions in Norwich.

“Of course whoever seeks to lead the British Labour Party has to have a view on something which could lead to the fundamental reorganisation of the county they seek to govern.

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Independence for Scotland also means huge changes for the UK and for the leader of the Labour Party not to have a view on it would be astounding. Not for the first time Ian Murray has done himself no favours with an ill considered intervention.”

Fellow SNP MP Alyn Smith said: “Ian Murray needs to get with the times and get serious. To airily dismiss in such a flippant way legitimate aspirations of a sizeable percentage of the people of Scotland is precisely why the Labour Party is in such a mess.

“There are many people I know in the Labour party who are increasingly open to independence and even more who acknowledge it is our democratic right to choose.”

It is not the first time a pro-Union politician has compared a constitutional debate in a devolved nation with a local issue in England. In February 2018 Boris Johnson likened the Irish border with the Camden/Westminster congestion charging boundary in London.

The then foreign secretary said “there’s no border between Camden and Westminster” as he suggested that goods crossing between the Republic and Northern Ireland could be subject to electronic checks, in a reference to the congestion charge.

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His suggestion was dismissed as “unbelievable” by Labour MPs.

Johnson told the BBC: “There’s no border between Camden and Westminster, but when I was mayor of London we anaesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people travelling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks whatever.

“It’s a very relevant comparison because there’s all sorts of scope for pre-booking, electronic checks, all sorts of things that you can do to obviate the need for a hard border to allow us to come out of the customs union, take back control of our trade policy and do trade deals.”