FRESH infighting in Scottish Labour has broken out over a second independence referendum.

Neil Findlay MSP hit out after the party’s new spokesman on the constitution, Anas Sarwar, said Labour would oppose a new vote until at least 2026.

Sarwar said it is up to the people of Scotland to decide their future, but added that he will not support indyref2 for the whole of the next Holyrood term.

In an interview with ITV’s Representing Border, he said: “We will clearly go into the next election saying that we don’t believe now is the right time for an independence referendum, coming through a pandemic.”

He added: “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.

“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 would oppose indyref2 for the whole of the next term of the Scottish Parliament, which ends in 2026, he said: “Yes.”

However, Findlay, who is on the left of the party and close to former leader Jeremy Corbyn, tweeted: “When did this become policy? Where was the debate? This is just making stuff up on the hoof.”

Tommy Kane, a Scottish Labour member who used to work for Corbyn, also criticised the comments. He tweeted: “No thought to voters who left Labour cos [sic] of kamikaze Unionism or those current LP voters who support Scotland right to self determine.

“At what point is it recognised this is a failed strategy?”

Scottish Labour has struggled in recent years to hold a consistent line on a second independence referendum.

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In the early days of Richard Leonard’s leadership, it strongly opposed another referendum.

But recently there appeared to be moves to soften this line prompted by polls showing majority support for independence.

Polls have also suggested that around 40% of Labour voters back independence.

After the party’s disastrous General Election result last year, when it was again left with a single MP in Scotland, several senior figures – including Findlay – called for the party not to oppose indyref2, even though they would continue to oppose independence.

The new wrangle was seized on by Murray Foote, the SNP’s head of communications in Holyrood, tweeted: “Scottish Labour normal service resumes ...”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens, who are bidding to take Labour votes in the Scottish Parliament election in May, hit over the party stance on a new referendum.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Scottish Labour have their fingers in their ears at a time when the Tories are undermining devolution and tearing up worker’s rights and environmental protections.

“At least a third of Labour voters would vote Yes and Scottish Labour is pushing them away. The STUC has said clearly that they support Scotland’s right to decide, even if they don’t all agree on independence itself.”

“It’s sad to see Labour no longer interested in representing the views of Scotland’s workers in the same way.

“It’s clear that only the Scottish Greens stand for a Scotland that puts workers first with our own seat at the European table.”

Sarwar, a former Scottish Labour deputy leader, was a prominent figure in the anti-independence Better Together campaign ahead of the 2014 referendum.

He has taken up the constitution brief, with Alex Rowley moved to the economy.