WATCH: “We are opposed to a second independence referendum,” says Leonard

Elliot Chappell

The Scottish Labour Party is “clearly saying that we are opposed to a second independence referendum”, Richard Leonard has declared ahead of next year’s Holyrood elections.

In an interview with ITV’s Representing Border programme this afternoon, the Scottish Labour leader said that the party was instead focused on “the people’s priorities – which are about jobs, economic recovery and public services”.

He rejected the suggestion that he should step down as leader ahead of the vote, and said that he had been elected only three years ago with a “strong mandate from the members to lead the Scottish Labour Party into next year’s elections”.

Leonard said: “The entire focus and dedication of the next Scottish parliament and the next Scottish government should be on rebuilding the economy, should be revitalising our public services, should be looking at how we can build a better care system…

“These are the priorities for the next five years. It’s not independence. It’s not constitutional change. And we should not get bogged down in a debate for the next five years, a wrangle between and SNP and Tory administration.”

He added: “The position of the Scottish Labour Party is clear that we are going into next year’s elections, saying that we are standing on a platform opposing a second independence referendum.”

Asked if it was time for a new Scottish Labour leader, Leonard said: “No it’s not. I was elected less than three years ago with a strong mandate from the members to lead the Scottish Labour Party into next year’s elections.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer told Representing Border in January that the SNP, which is campaigning for a second vote, will have a mandate for another independence referendum if they win a majority in 2021.

But Starmer said that “neither the status quo nor independence is the right way forward”, and described how he wants to make the case that “federalism or much more meaningful devolution” is needed.

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