THE favourite to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party has said the SNP will have a mandate for indyref2 if they win the 2021 Holyrood election.

Keir Starmer told journalists in Scotland that the country needed a “new constitutional settlement”, but said federalism or further devolution would be better than independence.

The shadow Brexit secretary said Labour needed to have “blunt conversations across Scotland and across the UK” to rebuild trust.

Their vote share plummeted in last month’s snap vote, and they lost all but one of their MPs.

Asked if the SNP should be allowed to have a second referendum if they won the next election, Starmer said: “They will have a mandate for that.

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“What I want to do is to make the case going into that election that actually neither the status quo nor independence is the right way forward.

“And what we need is, whether you call it federalism or much more meaningful devolution, a different constitutional settlement.

“That’s the argument I want to make. I’m here to discuss that with colleagues.”

He added: “The future of Scotland is obviously a matter for Scotland.

“I’m here to have a discussion about a new constitutional settlement – a federal settlement, if you like, but certainly a new settlement – that is neither the status quo nor independence, neither of which I think are right for Scotland or the UK.

READ MORE: Labour: Keir Starmer lays out Scottish independence stance

“I’m here very much to listen and to talk to colleagues. That’s the purpose of my visit.”

Starmer said it was “very important” that the leader of the Labour Party does not “impose anything on Scotland or Scottish Labour”.

One of his rivals, Lisa Nandy, faced a fierce backlash when she suggested Scotland could learn from how “divisive nationalism” was beaten in Catalonia. She later condemned the police violence used during and in the aftermath of the Catalan referendum.

Starmer was also asked about comments by fellow leadership contender Emily Thornberry, who said she hated the SNP over the weekend.

He said: “I don’t hate the SNP. I don’t hate any political party.

“For me this is about winning – I want to win elections, so it’s not about hating other politicians or other political parties.”

READ MORE: Keir Starmer back on campaign trail with more union backing

Thornberry provoked laughter at a hustings at the Open Labour Winter Conference and Leadership Hustings on Sunday at Nottingham Trent University city campus. In an exchange caught on camera, a party member asked: “Do you agree that the SNP’s record in government is bad and this attitude amongst members is both wrong and damaging to Labour’s chances in Scotland?”

Thornberry said: “I hate the SNP. I hate the SNP.”

She continued: “I think they’re Tories wrapped up in nationalist clothing. I think they pretend to be on the left and they’re not on the left.”

Scottish Labour frontbencher Alex Rowley criticised Thornberry’s remarks.

“I think it was a really ill considered comment and is not where our politics or politicians should be,” he told The National.

“I am sure if Emily reflects on what she said, she will be regretful given there should be no place for hate in our politics and our democracy.”

The MSP’s daughter, Danielle Rowley, is Thornberry’s campaign manager, and lost her Westminster seat to the SNP at the General Election.

Meanwhile, Starmer yesterday received support from the Labour Movement for Europe. The group also nominated Ian Murray for Labour deputy leader.

The Edinburgh MP said that if elected, he “will aim to enhance Britain’s place in the world”.