Richard Leonard has appeared to suggest a Labour government in Westminster would oppose granting a further referendum on Scottish independence.
Questioned on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme about whether the UK party would allow a second Scottish independence referendum if it won a snap election, the Scottish Labour leader said it did not support a further referendum and claimed there was “no appetite for it”.
Pressed further on whether a Section 30 Order required for the vote would be refused, he said a Labour government “would not agree to a second independence referendum”.
His comments follow increased speculation SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon will call for the power to hold a second referendum in the near future – expected to be rejected by Westminster – having said in January she would set out her thoughts on the issue in the “coming weeks”.
Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay was interviewed on the same programme and believes if Scotland leaves the UK following a second independence referendum, a forecast GDP deficit of around 6% can be halved faster than the five to 10 years predicted by a leading economist.
In a major shift in SNP policy, Mr Mackay and SNP depute leader Keith Brown will put forward a motion to the party’s conference next month to adopt as the official party line that an SNP government in an independent Scotland would establish an independent currency.
The plan envisages Scotland using the pound during a transition period following a vote to leave the UK, aiming for the Scottish Parliament deciding on establishing the new currency by the end of its first term in an independent Scotland.
In the run-up to the 2014 referendum, then-first minister Alex Salmond said Scotland would continue to use the pound in a UK-wide currency union – a proposition rejected by parties opposing independence.
Mr Mackay was questioned on advice from economist Andrew Wilson, who predicted a GDP deficit of around 6% following independence and suggested this should be halved over five to 10 years before any independent Scottish currency was introduced.
The forecast was made in a May 2018 report by the Growth Commission, set up by Scotland’s First Minister to draw up a new economic blueprint for independence following the 2014 referendum.
Mr Mackay said the deficit could be reduced more quickly than forecast but denied such a move would accelerate austerity.
“We could reduce that notional deficit, of course that’s the deficit for being part of the United Kingdom, and accelerate the economic growth,” he told the programme.
“After we published the Growth Commission report, our economics, our financial position is improving.”
He added: “We want to be part of the European Union and we’re not proposing the euro.
“We’re proposing continuing with the pound and we have the ambition to have an independent Scottish currency and we have set out a plan to take us there.”
Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats claim the Growth Commission plans would lead to austerity.
The Scottish Conservatives said Mr Leonard “hasn’t got a plan to stop a second referendum” on independence and said Mr Mackay’s plans were “fantasy economics”.