LABOUR have refused to support the SNP’s efforts to repeal anti-protest legislation – calling their attempt “a stunt”.

The SNP brought forward a motion to repeal the Public Order Act – which gives police in England sweeping powers to crack down on peaceful protest – but Labour said they would not back it.

In response, the SNP criticised Labour and accused the party of “simply looking like gormless Tory sidekicks”.

MPs debated the motion on Tuesday evening but Labour said they would not “dignify this stunt” with their support.

MPs rejected the effort, voting 278 to 57, majority 221, against the motion aimed at seizing control of parliamentary time in order to scrap the law.

It comes after Keir Starmer said the legislation should be allowed time to settle in

He also said he would not repeal the government’s Illegal Migration Bill, which among other provisions effectively criminalises seeking asylum in the UK.

His official spokesperson said it would not be “necessary” to do so for Labour to introduce its own immigration policy, if it forms the UK Government after the next election.

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Opening the SNP’s opposition day debate in the Commons, SNP home affairs spokeswoman Alison Thewliss said: “The Leader of the Opposition, instead of saying that this Bill should be repealed, has said we need to let it bed in.

"The shadow foreign secretary (David Lammy) has said we can’t come into office picking through all the Conservative legislation and repealing it, it would take up so much parliamentary time.

“Well, I’m giving the opportunity to the official Opposition today, here’s some parliamentary time, here is the opportunity to repeal it. Why will they not come forward and support us in the lobbies tonight?”

She added: “They are not opposing the restrictions on the right to (protest) and their dithering is enabling it. They have said they are a government in waiting, but today, on this Bill, and on so many other Bills, they are simply looking like gormless Tory sidekicks.”

Labour’s shadow policing minister Sarah Jones criticised the SNP for their debate on the bill, calling it nothing more than a political stunt”, adding: “We will not dignify this stunt with our support.”

But she added: “I am weary of a government that has refused to listen, to the [MPs] on their own side, to the [MPs] on this side, to the public and to many current and former police officers.

“Instead, they’ve chosen headlines over common sense, party interest over freedom, strict limitations over liberty.”

She added: “We had warned the Government again and again that their measures were too broad, and it would seem we were right.”

The new powers in the Public Order Act were seen in action during the King’s coronation on May 6 – when peaceful anti-monarchy protesters were arrested.

Graham Smith, CEO of anti-monarchy campaign group Republic, was one of them. He said: "Labour should be ashamed of themselves. The current law is a disgrace."

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Joanna Cherry, the SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, said: “I believe that the last 12 months have seen an unprecedented attack on the right to protest.

“Unfortunately, across the UK we are allowing a degree of authoritarianism to creep into our public life and we’ve even seen recently police turning up at members of the public’s doors to check their thinking, and that’s a really serious attack on freedom of expression.”

Claire Haughey, SNP MSP for Rutherglen, said of Labour: "The opposition that refuses to oppose."