Labour challenged on Marr and Ridge over pro-referendum candidates

Anas Sarwar was challenged on the Andrew Marr and Ridge on Sunday shows over several Labour candidates who are in favour of another independence referendum.

Marr said at least three Labour candidates in this election were in favour of another referendum.

On Ridge, quotes from several pro-referendum Labour candidates were put to Sarwar. He was also challenged over scathing criticism from the IFS that said Labour had “no sense” of how much their policies would cost or how to pay for them.

Keir Starmer has repeatedly refused to rule out another independence referendum and this morning, Anas Sarwar avoided questions about Labour candidates who support indyref2.

Scottish Conservative candidate for Glasgow, Annie Wells, said: “Labour are still determined to sit on the fence over another referendum.

“They can’t be trusted to oppose indyref2. Several Labour candidates would back a referendum right now and in the future, it’s clear that even more could give in to the SNP and support it.

“Keir Starmer won’t rule out indyref2 and Anas Sarwar won’t say if his candidates will oppose another referendum in the future.

“Labour backed the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill, they let Nicola Sturgeon away with misleading Parliament, and they won’t stand up to the nationalists when they demand another referendum.

“Their manifesto was savaged by the IFS. They have “no sense” of how to pay for their policies. They’re not even trying to be a credible opposition.”


A number of Labour candidates are in favour of another referendum, especially if there is an independence majority. They include:

Dundee City West candidate Mercedes Villalba is in favour of another referendum. She said: ‘If we're truly not content with the status quo, hadn't we better call for a referendum to put our alternative to the people?’. (Twitter, Mercedes Villalba, 20 January 2021, link).

Edinburgh Central candidate Maddy Kirkman supports the Scottish Parliament having the power to call a referendum. In response to a question asking if she supports Scotland’s right to ‘self-determination’, she tweeted: ‘I have pushed, and will continue to push, within the party, for the right call a referendum to sit with the Scottish Parliament. I have the backing of local members in this regard and it will remain my position’. (Twitter, Maddy Kirkman, 6 November 2020, link).

Rutherglen candidate Martin Lennon think Scottish Labour need to change their approach on a second referendum. In response to a tweet saying that Scottish Labour will oppose indyref2 until 2026 Lennon said: ‘Why does anyone think this is a good idea? What world are Labour MSPs living in. Most people in Scotland now support independence. Most people support a referendum.’ (Twitter, Martin Lennon, 18 November 2020, link).

Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley candidate Kevin McGregor said an independence majority was enough for a referendum. ‘If the indy supporting parties have a parliamentary majority we might not like it, we might not support it but it is their right to move for a referendum’ (Twitter, Kevin McGregor, 7 August 2019, link).

Dundee City East candidate Owen Wright has said it would help Labour to back a second referendum. ‘I wouldn’t go as far as “pro independence” and supporting yes being a requirement but definitely being in favour of second indyref would help bring back voters to our party’. (Twitter, Owen Wright, 18 January 2021, link).

Edinburgh Northern and Leith candidate Katrina Faccenda believes the right to call an independence referendum should sit with the Scottish Parliament. She tweeted: ‘We need the Power to Call a Referendum’, alongside an article that says: ‘Several CLPs have proposed an amendment to the document to support the power to call any future independence referendum, with appropriate safeguards, resting with the Scottish Parliament.’ (Twitter, Katrina Faccenda, 9 October 2020, link).

Lothian candidate Nick Ward said: ‘I do not think that acknowledging the right to self determination and accepting that if a majority in the parliament wants a second referendum is a silly position. Sorry to disagree on this one.’ (Twitter, Nick Ward, 18 January 2021, link).

Starmer quotes on indyref2 include:

Starmer refused to rule out backing another independence referendum if he was Prime Minister. He evaded answering if he would rule out another referendum saying: ‘At the moment, I think the focus has to absolutely be on the recovery. Therefore if I was PM, I would be working across all four nations on the recovery.’ But added, ‘If there’s a majority it’s got to be looked at in Westminster’. (The Herald, 19 March 2021, link).

Keir Starmer has repeatedly said he will not block indyref2. In January, when running for Labour leadership, Starmer said ‘Of course if there’s a [pro-independence] majority it has to be looked at in Westminster. I don’t think it’s right to block anything that comes from a parliament here, of course I don’t.’ In September when asked if he stood by those comments, he said ‘These issues are questions for Scotland, I do stand by that’.  (STV, 28 January 2020, link; Sky News, 23 September 2020, link).

Starmer said that independence should be looked at if the SNP win a majority in next year’s election. When questioned on whether an independence referendum should be granted in light of an SNP majority in the Holyrood elections, Starmer said: ‘This is a question for Scotland, people of Scotland. If there’s a majority it’s got to be looked at in Westminster, but the Labour party will be campaigning into May on the basis that what we don’t want is another divisive referendum.’ (Daily Record, 20 September 2020, link).


Starmer refused to rule out another independence referendum after May’s Scottish elections. When pushed on whether he would support a second independence referendum after the May election he said: ‘We don't know... In politics, people tell you with great certainty what is going to happen next year and the year after, but it doesn't always turn out that way. I am setting out the argument we will make into May. I am not doing a hypothetical of what will happen after that.’ (BBC, 23 September 2020, link).

The IFS analysis of Labour’s manifesto said:

“Scottish Labour set out a vision for big expansion of the welfare state - with no sense of how much this would eventually cost or how it would be paid for.”

“Apart from the short-term COVID recovery measures, the manifesto does not provide information on how much these various pledges would cost - either individually or together - which is disappointing.”

“The Scottish Labour manifesto is a somewhat strange beast - more a plan for the next 18 months and then for the next decade or more, rather than a 5-year parliamentary term.”

“How this would all be paid for is not at all clear. The manifesto’s short-term plans exceed the Scottish Government’s unallocated funding for this year, and wouldn’t be deliverable without additional UK government funding. Longer-term plans would also require tax rises - not only affecting those earning over £100,000 - or a very substantial loosening of the purse strings by the UK government.”

“On the Scottish Government’s biggest existing revenue-raiser, income tax, Scottish Labour says it would seek to avoid increases at the moment but would support increases for those earning over £100,000 a year ‘if there is a need’. Given the difficulty of introducing major new taxes quickly under the Scottish Government’s current powers, and given the likely cost of Labour’s many spending commitments, it seems likely that there would be a need for this - and much more.”

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