Labour figures are starting to embrace the idea of a second independence referendum

Former Scottish First Minister says Labour must 'embrace democracy'.

A series of senior Labour figures have backed Scotland’s right to a second independence referendum.

Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish is among those arguing the party’s current position on a referendum amounts to “voting against democracy.”

McLeish, the party’s former leader, told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland: “It’s important that you cannot keep voting against the idea of an indyref2 because you’re voting against democracy”.

He argues that Labour “should embrace democracy” by backing a referendum. In 2016 McLeish said he would now back independence in a fresh referendum.

The former First Minister’s comments follow those of Labour leadership favourite Rebecca Long-Bailey saying that “ultimately the people of Scotland need to make the case” for independence. Former leadership contender Clive Lewis also said Labour should not block a second independence referendum.

They add to a growing list of Labour figures including Monica Lennon MSP, Alex Rowley MSP, Neil Findlay MSP, and former minister Malcolm Chisholm who say there is a clear mandate to hold a referendum.

The SNP’s Keith Brown said: “More and more senior Labour voices are starting to realise that denying Scotland’s right to choose our own future is a completely unsustainable position, and it’s clear the tide is turning.  

“It’s time that Richard Leonard saw sense and stood with the vast majority of people in Scotland – rather than being driven by the Better Together mentality of siding with the Tories to block Scotland’s will at every turn.

“Labour supporters are increasingly coming to the view that the Westminster system of government is failing people in Scotland, and that no politician – Tory or Labour – has the right to deny Scotland’s democratic right to choose our own future.

“Only the SNP are offering a positive vision for the future of Scotland – we must be able to choose that future in an independence referendum.”

Labour figures backing the ‘right for Scotland to choose’:

  • Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “Ultimately the people of Scotland need to make the case…I wouldn’t want to inhibit the democracy of people, because that’s one of the most fundamental pillars that we’re proud of in this country.”
  • Labour leadership contender Clive Lewis said: “In the words of the 1989 Scottish Constitutional Convention, supported by Labour MPs, I believe ‘in the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs,” adding that Scots should not be “dictated to” and that Scotland “felt “shackled to a dysfunctional political system”.
  • Henry McLeish, former Labour First Minister said: “I think it’s important that you cannot keep voting against the idea of an indyref2 because you’re voting against democracy…The opportunity for alternatives is slowly closing down and my fear is if we don’t watch, Labour will be part of a policy which sees us drift towards independence. Hey! That may be a good idea at the end of the day…Labour should embrace democracy.”
  • Neil Findlay MSP said: “We cannot deny the people of Scotland a second referendum where the majority is calling for it.”
  • Monica Lennon MSP said: “If Boris Johnson isn’t prepared to grant this request” for a section 30 order “he should allow the Scottish Parliament to decide.”
  • Alex Rowley MSP said: “I have to say I don’t get why the Labour Scottish Executive are so reluctant to allow our membership to determine our vision and way forward for Scotland. Too many of them still think Better Together standing alongside the Tories is the best way forward.” 
  • Alison Evison, President of COSLA and Leader of the Labour group on Aberdeenshire Council, said: “It’s straight-forward to me: democracy must be at the core of all we do … that must mean a referendum on independence.”
  • Former Labour minister Malcolm Chisholm said: “Hope many of those against or undecided (me included) about independence will get behind incontrovertible democratic demand for IndyRef2.”
  • Former MP Ged Killen said: “Agreed. I campaigned on a promise to vote against indyref2, but I lost. The SNP made massive gains on a promise to hold another referendum and, as democrats, we must accept it even if we don’t like it.”
  • Former MP Paul Sweeney said that unless the UK government “recognise the body politic at large in Scotland is not willing to accept the current status quo… the United Kingdom is unsustainable.”
  • Former MSP and Glasgow councillor Anne McTaggart said: “We simply cannot afford to leave Scotland’s future in Boris Johnson’s hands. After years of Brexit chaos and Tory austerity at Westminster it is clear that independence is the only way forward for the people and the communities I’ve represented for over 10 years.”

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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