Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has added his name to those within the party who believe it should rethink its opposition to a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Labour’s current leader Keir Starmer and Scottish leader Anas Sarwar are both opposed to indyref2, continuing the anti-independence stance the party took as a partner in Better Together at the first referendum in 2014.
But Jeremy Corbyn said earlier this week that he believes indyref 2 is imminent and added: ‘I don’t believe it’s a good idea to prevent people expressing a point of view and an opinion’.
During his time as party leader Mr Corbyn shifted his position on a second independence referendum, although his party has never lifted its opposition to it. During the 2019 election campaign, he said a referendum would not happen in the early part of the parliamentary term under a Labour government. He had previously said it would not happen for the entirety of the first term of a Corby-led UK government.
Last week he said he expects a second referendum ‘in a few years’ as the pressure is there for it. He said: "I'm strongly in support of people having their voice, therefore an independence referendum is something that I believe will happen probably within a few years."
A spokesman for Scottish Labour said after his comments: "Mr Corbyn is not a sitting Labour MP and private citizens are entitled to their views on a range of issues." Labour removed the whip from Mr Corbyn after he stood down as leader because of his response to a report on anti-semitism within the party.
In my opinion they [Labour] should support a second referendum on independence; what they actually do when that referendum comes can still be debated
Mr Corbyn’s support for a second independence referendum comes after similar comments from former union boss Len McCluskey, who recently told Labour to back indyref2. As general secretary of the Unite union Mr McClusky was a major figure within the party for more than a decade.
He said: ‘In my opinion they [Labour] should support a second referendum on independence; what they actually do when that referendum comes can still be debated."
Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish has supported a second independence referendum for some time. Last month he said he would ‘seriously consider’ voting yes in indyref2.
The Labour party in Wales adopts a different attitude to the debate around independence. Labour First Minister in Wales Mark Drakeford recently launched the Welsh government’s Constitutional Commission and said it would be ‘absurd’ to rule out considering independence as an option.
Mr Drakeford has said he does not personally support independence but, unlike his colleagues in Scottish Labour, he supports the principle of democracy. The new commission will examine how the constitutional structures of the UK can be reformed and will be led by the former archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and Professor Laura McAllister.
Pro-union politicians at Westminster are united in the belief that the UK government has the power to block a referendum, which it does not
Labour leader Keir Starmer prefers to wait for a promised report on Scotland from former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown which is expected to recommend extending devolution. It’s inconceivable it will consider independence as an option.
It’s equally inconceivable that the current Westminster government would give Mr Brown’s plans any consideration given that it is busy taking away powers from Holyrood and undermining the whole principle of devolution.
Of course pro-union politicians at Westminster are united in the belief that the UK government has the power to block a referendum, which it does not. The Scottish government is committed to holding indyref2 before the end of 2023 whether Westminster backs it or not.