Jeremy Corbyn has said there will be no referendum on Scottish independence in the first term of a Labour government, in an apparent hardening of the party’s stance which could damage his chances of entering Downing Street in a hung parliament.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s offer last week to join a “progressive alliance” which could put Corbyn into power is certain to be dependent on the Labour leader supporting an early independence referendum, which she wants to take place in 2020.
Mr Corbyn has previously said he would not block an “IndyRef2” but did not want it to happen in “the formative years” of a Labour government.
Boris Johnson accuses him of preparing to cave in to SNP demands for a 2020 public vote in return for a coalition.
But as he kicked off a two-day tour of Scotland in Glasgow, he went further, saying there would be “no referendum in the first term for a Labour government because I think we need to concentrate completely in investment across Scotland”.
Pressed on whether it would be undemocratic to deny the Scottish people a referendum if the pro-independence SNP won a majority of seats north of the border in the 12 December general election, Mr Corbyn said: "If the SNP win the majority of seats that's the election of those MPs. I'm very clear that a Labour government's priority is investment in Scotland."
If Labour wins power next month, its first term could last until 2024.
Aides later told reporters that Labour's position could change if the SNP won a majority in Holyrood in Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.
Corbyn’s comments are likely to hearten Scottish Labour which is campaigning against a second referendum to follow the 2014 vote which produced a 55-45 per cent majority in favour of remaining in the UK.
Launching the SNP’s campaign last week, Ms Sturgeon said she was “no great fan” of Mr Corbyn and could not see her party going into a formal coalition with Labour
But she said she would be open to "some kind of progressive alliance that could lock the Tories out of government”.
SNP social justice spokesperson and candidate for Airdrie and Shotts Neil Gray said: “Only a vote for the SNP is a vote for Scotland to escape from Brexit and give people a choice of a better future with independence.
"No Westminster party has any right to stand in the way of that - and these latest comments show that privately Labour are well aware that their undemocratic position of simply ignoring the Scottish people, no matter what they say, is completely unsustainable.
“And with the once-dominant Scottish Labour party now at the point of extinction, and Labour voters turning to the SNP, Jeremy Corbyn is in absolutely no position to tell the people of Scotland if and when they can have a say over their own future.
"As we have made crystal clear, no one looking for support from the SNP after this election should bother to even pick up the phone unless they are prepared to accept the democratically expressed will of Scotland."