Question Time debate: Corbyn won't allow Scottish independence referendum for at least two years if Labour win

Andrew Woodcock

Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not allow a referendum on Scottish independence for “two years at least” if he wins power in the 12 December general election.

Mr Corbyn said his priority for Scotland would be to put £100 billion of investment into improving infrastructure over the five years of a Labour government’s first term.

But Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she believed that Mr Corbyn would drop his resistance to an “IndyRef2” if he needed SNP support for a minority administration in a hung parliament.

On the BBC’s Question Time election special, Mr Corbyn was confronted by a Scottish man who asked him if the UK was “like Hotel California - you can check out any time you like but you can never leave”.

He replied: “I don’t see a priority in Scotland of having an independence referendum. In the early years of a Labour government, we will not be supporting an independence referendum.”

Pressed by host Fiona Bruce what “the early years” meant, Mr Corbyn replied: “First two years, at least.”

He later added that the 2021 Holyrood elections would provide an expression of Scottish voters’ views on a referendum.

And he insisted that Labour “is not doing any deal with any other parties”.

But Ms Sturgeon made clear that she expects Corbyn to compromise if he is reliant on SNP votes to prop up a Labour government after 12 December.

Jeremy Corbyn faces audience questions on Question Time (BBC)
Jeremy Corbyn faces audience questions on Question Time (BBC)

“Having heard Jeremy Corbyn, do you think he is going to walk away from the chance to end austerity, to protect the NHS, to stop Universal Credit, simply because he wants for a couple of years to prevent Scotland having the right to self-determination?” she asked.

“Jeremy Corbyn supports the right to self-determination for every other country in the world. I’m not sure he is going to compromise the chance of a Labour government for that issue.”

The First Minister said she did not envisage taking the SNP into coalition with Labour, but making "a less formal arrangement".

Ms Sturgeon is pressing for a second independence referendum during 2020, and Conservative leader Boris Johnson accuses Mr Corbyn of planning two referendums - on the EU and Scotland - over the course of next year.