KEIR Starmer would not grant a Section 30 order to allow Scotland to hold a second independence referendum if he becomes Prime Minister after the next general election.

He revealed this at a ­Westminster press event, which also saw a ­rattled Anas Sarwar singling out The ­National for criticism.

The Labour leader said during a sit down with Scottish journalists on Tuesday last week, that if his party were to surge to power in Westminster following the collapse of Boris Johnson’s scandal-hit government that the party’s argument against ­indyref2 “won’t change”.

The next General Election isn’t due until May 2024, and ahead of the ­local council ballot this year, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar ruled out any power sharing deals.

However, in numerous local ­authorities Labour have entered into loose agreements with the Tories and LibDems to lock the SNP out.

Meanwhile, in Dumfries and ­Galloway, the authority is now led by two co-leaders – one SNP and one Labour.

The Sunday National put this to Starmer to get his view on whether this decision could backfire ahead of an upcoming general election, and undo the vote gains that the party made at local level. He again ruled out any deals with the SNP, but did not address the question of the impact on vote share as Sarwar interrupted, claiming our newspaper’s reports are “completely untrue” and that it was “laughable” they would work with the Tories, even when we pointed out numerous instances where this had happened in reality.

Starmer’s Section 30 assertion came 24 hours before Johnson, in his last act as Tory party leader, wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to rule out giving the Scottish parliament powers to hold an independence vote.

The Labour leader insisted there was no “small policy disagreement” between Labour and the SNP, but a “fundamental” one, adding there would be no deal with the party to form a UK Government under any circumstances.

Starmer said his priority was ­“rebuilding” the UK and Scotland, and growing the economy, dealing with the Covid crisis impact and the cost of living, adding that a “divisive referendum” is not the solution to those issues.

Asked if the political landscape changes, Labour wins the next ­general election and Starmer finds himself as Prime Minister, would he grant a ­Section 30 order, he said: “This argument won’t change and that is why we’re very clear no deals into the election, no deals out of it.”

The Sunday National put to ­Starmer that there had been numerous deals struck with other parties at local level in Scotland.

In Edinburgh, Labour leant on Tory and LibDem votes to oust their ­former SNP coalition partners from the authority and form a minority ­administration.

Similar scenes played out in West Lothian and Fife.

In Stirling, Labour were returned as the third-largest party but took power thanks to the Tories accepting a back-room deal to take over the role of Provost and other key positions, while in Moray and South ­Ayrshire, Labour councillor abstentions ­allowed the Tories to take control.

Starmer didn’t answer the point ­directly, but said the local election ­result was a “big step forward” for the Labour Party in Scotland and that they “need to go further”.

WHEN the Sunday National asked if the Labour leader had any concerns over the impact of these deals potentially “undoing” the vote share increase ahead of the General Election, he was not given the chance to respond as Sarwar leapt in to defend his policy choices, and insisted it was “not true” that they were working with the Tories.

He also claimed the joint SNP-­Labour-Independent ­administration in Dumfries and Galloway, which was agreed on May 24, was an ­“interim ­arrangement” to allow ­council ­services to continue.

When The Sunday National ­pointed out there are two ­co-leaders in ­Dumfries and Galloway, one is SNP and one is Labour, Sarwar ­responded: “Let me finish – that is an interim arrangement not for the ­entire duration of the council term.

“And there is not a single coalition agreement with the Conservatives anywhere in Scotland and to suggest otherwise is just not true.”

The Sunday National pointed out there are numerous councils where Tories, Labour and LibDem have formed alliances, as we set out above, but Sarwar continued to be in denial.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour's Anas Sarwar is rattled by The National's questions on Tory deals

He added: “How other political parties choose to vote is a matter for other political parties. There are no deals and there are no coalitions with the Tories.”

In disbelief at this refutation from Sarwar, we put to him that on that day, East Renfrewshire Labour ­councillors had voted through a £5000 pay rise for a Tory councillor serving as a committee vice-convener and his party had been accused of ­trying to “buy another vote”.

He replied: “Well, I’ve not seen what you’re referring to but I ­imagine there’s lots of accusations made by lots of people, particularly at The ­National, that simply aren’t true, and so I think we can see that for what it is to be honest.

“The idea that we are in any kind of cahoots with the Tories is ­laughable and the idea that we don’t want to boot the Tories out of Westminster and elect a Labour prime minister with the man sitting next to me is also laughable too.

“There’s only one other party in Scotland that wants the Tories to stay in power across the UK, and that’s the SNP because it helps them keep their grievance for a referendum.”

SNP MP Stewart Hosie hit back at Starmer over his comments.

The National: Stewart Hosie - UK Parliament official portraits 2017.

He said: “The Scottish Government has been given a cast-iron democratic mandate by the people to hold an ­independence referendum – and that is what we intend to do on October 19 2023.

“No Trump-like efforts from Boris Johnson or Keir Starmer can deny that democratic reality.

“Rather than adopting yet another Tory position – after throwing his support behind Boris Johnson’s ­disastrous Brexit – Keir Starmer should respect democracy or condemn Labour to increasing irrelevance in Scotland.

“The reality is that the ­Westminster system is broken and independence is the only way for Scotland to escape the damage of Westminster ­control and build a fairer, greener and ­prosperous future.”