LABOUR leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey has said blocking a second independence referendum will boost support for the SNP.

The shadow business secretary was the sole candidate backing indyref2 yesterday at the only hustings event taking place in Scotland. She said she did not believe Labour should refuse a fresh vote as it is a “democratic party”.

Meanwhile fellow contender Sir Keir Starmer did not explicitly rule out the possibility of the Scottish Parliament having the power to hold a legally binding referendum – saying it was an “interesting question”.

The final candidates took to the stage in Glasgow yesterday to answer questions from hundreds of Scottish Labour members, with Lisa Nandy also still in the running. A fourth leadership hopeful, Emily Thornberry, was eliminated from the race on Friday after failing to secure enough nominations.

Long-Bailey, who has won the backing of the Unite trade union, said the party couldn’t “blame” voters for going to the SNP and other parties. She said: “We won’t win a General Election without Scotland and we have to understand where our votes went.

“We lost 206,000 votes in the last General Election, 65,000 were lost by the Conservatives, and the SNP’s vote share went up by 265,000.

“So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or John Curtice to understand where our votes went.”

Asked if the Scottish Parliament should have the power to stage a legally binding vote on independence, Long-Bailey stressed she was a socialist who believes in collective solutions and is “proud to be from the UK”.

But she added: “As a democrat, I have to say if the Scottish Parliament makes the request for a referendum I don’t believe that as a democratic party we could refuse that.

“But if we did refuse that it would drive more of our voters into arms of the SNP and that is what they want.”

She said there had to be discussions about devolving political and

economic power out of Westminster and was met with loud applause when she added: “We can’t fall into the trap like we did the last time where we joined forces with the Conservative Party on the Better

Together campaign.”

Starmer, who is favourite to win the leadership contest, caused some consternation with his opening remarks when he talked of having discussions with “our SNPs” – before quickly clarifying he meant MSPs.

On the issue of the constitution, he said that the status-quo is not “capable of being defended any more”.

He added: “Obviously it has to work for the whole of the UK, but we do need radical federalism.

“Whether the Scottish Parliament should have power over an independence referendum I think is an interesting question, but we shouldn’t get sucked straight into that.

“The SNP are constantly using the constitutional issue to mask the real issues – if we get sucked into that, we are falling into their trap.”

Meanwhile Nandy said she believed in a “much more radical power settlement than federalism with power pushed out to local authorities”.

She said: “I believe in the United Kingdom and I think we have to be absolutely clear about that and we have to stand up for Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.

“We can hand power to people and give people agency and control over their own lives again by handing more powers to our councils.”

With Labour still reeling from its disastrous performance in the General Election, all three candidates were keen to stress Labour winning back support in Scotland as a route back to power across the UK.

Tensions between the UK and Scottish Labour Party have frequently surfaced, such as shadow chancellor John McDonnell last year contradicting the party’s official stance against indyref2 taking place.

With a number of senior Scottish Labour figures backing the idea of Scotland having the right to a fresh ballot, pressure has been growing for the party to change its policy. Speaking ahead of the hustings, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said he wanted to deliver an “abiding message” to all three candidates on how its position would be decided.

He said: “The policy of this Labour Party on Scotland’s constitutional future must be written here in Scotland by the Scottish Labour Party and written by us alone.”

Last month MSPs voted by 64 to 54 in favour of a second independence referendum taking place.

SNP MSP George Adam said: “The SNP has a cast-iron mandate to hold an independence referendum – and polls show a majority of Scots now support independence.

“Many figures within Labour increasingly realise that they can’t stand in the way of democracy forever.

“If the Unionist parties continue to oppose Scotland’s right to choose, support for independence will only continue to grow.”