Reeves: SNP strategy not a mandate for independence under Labour

A proposed policy which could see the SNP seek to kick-start independence negotiations if it wins most seats at the next general election has been rejected by Labour’s shadow chancellor.

The motion, proposed by First Minister Humza Yousaf and SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, will be debated at the party’s conference next month.

It states that “if the SNP subsequently wins the most seats at the general election in Scotland, the Scottish Government is empowered to begin immediate negotiations with the UK Government to give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent country”.

A second referendum on independence has been repeatedly ruled out by successive Conservative prime ministers, and Labour has also said it will not authorise a vote if elected.

Asked about the SNP motion while campaigning at Blantyre Fabrications ahead of the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election on October 5, Rachel Reeves told journalists: “No, we wouldn’t consider that a mandate in any way to have another referendum.

“The SNP are now just doubling down on a core vote strategy, not interested in changing the lives of people in Scotland, but focusing narrowly on constitutional issues.

“I don’t think that those are issues that resonate with people here in Rutherglen, or indeed across Scotland.

Batang Toru dam
First Minister and SNP leader Humza Yousaf (Robert Perry/PA)

“This is not the time for a referendum. This is the time to focus on the cost-of-living crisis and sorting out our public services.”

Ms Reeves was joined by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, MSP Neil Bibby and Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election candidate Michael Shanks.

The Supreme Court has ruled the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to organise its own ballot on the issue.

Meanwhile, veteran SNP MP Pete Wishart has urged his party to move towards an independence strategy based on a majority of votes instead of seats.

He told LBC: “I don’t think it’s credible and realistic to try and assert some sort of move towards independence if you’re not carrying the majority of people with you.

“That’s why I really hope that when we get to conference and we’re looking at the best way forward for our independence strategy, that we do move from seats to votes because it’s the only way that I believe we’ll be able to express a view about our independence status, and the only credible way to ensure that we will at least get some sort of hearing by international organisations.”

The First Minister, however, initially set out a majority of seats method during a special SNP convention on independence in June.

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Veteran SNP MP Pete Wishart said the strategy should focus on votes won, not seats (PA)

Mr Yousaf’s strategy has been criticised by former first minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond, who now leads the Alba Party, who claimed the approach is not credible.

But the First Minister insisted: “I think the question here is what is it that the Westminster parties are so scared of that they won’t give us another referendum.”

Mr Yousaf added that while a second referendum is still his party’s “plan A”, it has been blocked from holding such a vote by Westminster

The First Minister said: “If they are not going to allow us to test our proposition for popular support, I believe we have to use the next electoral means to do that.

“The next election will be a means to test that proposition and the way we will test it is by the rules of a general election. He who wins the most seats wins that general election.”

While he stressed “the party that wins the most seats ends up winning the general election”, he insisted the SNP is “not complacent” because it is “going to be a really difficult general election”.

Mr Yousaf said: “We know Labour are biting at our heels.

“That is why we will be putting independence front and centre, because my belief is it is absolutely the alternative that people are crying for.

“Labour, Sir Keir Starmer, with his support for the bedroom tax, the rape clause, two-child limit, Brexit. He’s not the alternative, independence is the alternative.”