LABOUR leader Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of “slamming the door” shut on an independence referendum in a "disastrous" interview.

In an interview on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Starmer was grilled on immigration, the Union and his thoughts on a second independence referendum. 

The Labour leader was pressed on the SNP’s mandate to hold indyref2. Asked whether the Union was voluntary, Starmer replied: “Well, of course it’s a voluntary organisation.

"I believe in the Union, if I think of all the fantastic things that we’ve achieved as the United Kingdom, we’ve done them together as four nations. 

“If I look at the really big challenges that face us, climate change, conflicts such as Ukraine, dealing with the energy security, these are issues which seem to me are obviously and can only be solved by the four nations as one entity. 

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“But we need to make the argument for that, I do understand very many people in Scotland say we want change, fed up with the Tory Government back in Westminster.

“It’s my job to sort that out by winning the next General Election and actually then we can have a Labour government to work with. 

“But if you look at those fundamental challenges, the big challenges that will face us are only going to be met with a strong Union going forward, a progressive, forward, modern look to our Union.”

The Labour leader continued to be pressed on what the route out of the Union was if they didn’t agree with him, to which he said “of course” people are not stuck in the UK. 

He was asked if he would set out a timeframe on independence in his manifesto to which he replied: “I will have in the manifesto a very powerful case for the Union and I will make that case to the country. 

“A fairer, greener Scotland in a fairer, greener Britain working together to meet the challenges of our time.”

Asked about the indyref2 case going to the Supreme Court, he said: “Look I think it’s good the case has gone to court because I think it’s better to have legal certainty so we all know the base on which we’re operating.

“All the court is going to be able to rule is, if it does rule in favour, is that there could or can be, it’s legally permissible to have a referendum, that doesn’t answer the political question which is should there be a referendum. 

“My argument remains the same which is if I look at what is bearing down on us, the climate crisis, we’ve got COP just around the corner, we didn’t go far enough in Glasgow last year, we’ve got conflict in Ukraine, we’ve got an energy security problem and we’ve got an economic problem in terms of the cost of living crisis we’re facing, they would be my priorities.”

He was asked what he would say to voters who had elected the SNP over the last 15 years.

Starmer replied: “I tell you what I would say. I would say just look at those 15 years and see what has happened. What is there to show for it?

“I really don’t think that everyone across Scotland is completely immune from the cost of living, isn’t bothered about their bills, doesn’t worry about their shopping, doesn’t worry about their mortgage, they’re simply thinking about independence, I just don’t accept that.”

He added that it had been “15 years of failure” under the SNP and pointed to issues in the NHS as evidence of this.

He continued: “I think that the SNP and actually the Tory party in Westminster are using independence as a mask to say, ‘well don’t look here at our record, look over here at something else’ but I say look at the record and the record is a record of failure.”

Following the interview, the SNP have accused Starmer of “insulting ignorance of Scotland’s needs”. 

They accused him of following in the footsteps of Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Sunak through his “denial of Scottish democracy”. 

The SNP's deputy Westminster Leader Kirsten Oswald said: “Was that really a Labour leader speaking because what Keir Starmer said was not only dangerous nonsense, it has already been said by each of the last four Tory Prime Ministers? 

“He demonstrated an insulting ignorance of Scotland’s needs by re-stating his support for the failed policies of successive Tory governments like this catastrophic hard Brexit and an increasingly hard-right stance on immigration.”

In the same interview, Starmer said the UK was recruiting too many overseas workers into the NHS

Oswald continued: “To arrive in Scotland so entirely ignorant of the issues affecting our country is astounding incompetence for a man whose ambition is to be Britain’s Prime Minister.

“All he managed to do was confirm that if you vote Labour, you get the same failed Tory policies. 

“It is not for any Westminster politician to decide Scotland’s future – it is solely a matter for the people who live here. And the people have already decided they want another referendum.”

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The UK Supreme Court is yet to announce its decision on whether or not Scotland has the power to legislate for an independence referendum without Westminster’s consent. 

Oswald added: "The evidence is clear, Brexit means the UK economic crisis is here to stay. It's the single biggest ongoing threat to our economy and a root cause of the soaring cost of living. And it is also hammering our NHS.

"Keir Starmer is pretending otherwise and blindly backing Brexit whatever the cost as he panders to pro-Brexit voters in England. But that simply won’t wash in Scotland, where more than seven in 10 Scots support Scotland returning to the EU.

"Neither the Tories nor the Labour Party are being honest with voters about the sustained damage Brexit will continue to do - and neither party can be trusted to solve the cost-of-living crisis when they are both responsible for the most devastating long-term cause

"By joining the Tories on Brexit, Keir Starmer isn't offering voters any genuine alternative to Tory economic decline. Independence is the only way for Scotland to regain our place in Europe and avoid the long-term economic decline of Westminster control.”

SNP politicians also took to Twitter to slam Starmer for his interview. Deputy first minister John Swinney said: “A disastrous interview for Keir Starmer on #SundayShow. Asked why Labour has lost in Scotland, he said Labour was out of step with the priorities of the public. He then slams the door on a referendum on independence. There might be a clue to the problem there!"

Pete Wishart said on Twitter: “‘Why do you protect democracy across the UK but deny it in Scotland’? An absolute killer question to which we only got waffle about Covid from Sir Keir. This is the question that will haunt them up till the next election. 

“I bet he’s glad that’s over… Apparently we ‘can’ get a referendum that he will never agree to, and we just have to suck it up being in a union that we want out of. No different to the Tories, again. 

“The best bit was when asked ‘where did it all go wrong for the Labour Party in Scotland’? He genuinely didn’t know. This is the source of all of Scottish Labour’s woes. No one knows why they were obliterated and they have no interest in finding out why. The thing is we know…

“He also thinks we are in a ‘voluntary union’ that we can’t leave. Sir Keir almost embarrassing on denying Scotland its rightful choice. This is going to hurt them.”