SCOTTISH Labour will oppose a second Scottish independence referendum for at least the next five years, according to the party’s new constitution spokesman.

Despite 14 consecutive polls showing support for independence ahead of support for the Union, and data showing Labour voters increasingly back Yes, the party is insistent it will continue to oppose a new vote until 2026 and possibly beyond.

Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar, who this week returned to Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet as constitution spokesperson, says his party will go into the 2021 election “clearly” rejecting a referendum during the pandemic.

He said: “You’ve got to recognise that, ultimately, it’s for the people of Scotland to decide their own future. That’s a fundamental principle, a democratic principle, one that I support, and one that I hope every political party and every politician would support.”

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar rejoins Scottish Labour frontbench as constitution spokesman

He went on: “But at the same time as that, we’ve got to recognise that we are not going back to the old arguments of 2014. We are going through a pandemic that has changed the world, and has changed Scotland, and our focus for the next four or five years has to be coming through this pandemic, rebuilding our economy, getting people back into work, fixing our education system that has sadly broken under this Government, and rebuilding our national health service.

“That has got to be the priority for the next four or five years.”

Asked if Labour will oppose a new vote for the entirety of the next parliamentary term, he said “yes”.

Sarwar was a prominent member of the anti-independence Better Together alliance, and took over the constitution brief from Alex Rowley.

The MSP’s return was announced in a minor reshuffle which saw Rhoda Grant named as the new justice spokesperson, taking over from James Kelly who quit the position in protest over Richard Leonard’s leadership.

Elaine Smith will now be the party’s poverty spokesperson.