Jeremy Corbyn backs new Scottish independence referendum 'soon'

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backs calls for a new Scottish independence referendum ‘soon’ and urges his former party to help make it happen

Ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has backed a new independence vote for Scotland ‘soon’ and urged his former party to help make it happen.

The hard Left icon told the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that he would have allowed a vote to take place as early as 2021 if he had become prime minister in 2019.

Instead he was being embarrassingly thrashed by Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, leading Labour to its worst defeat in more than 80 years. 

And in comments unlikely to help his successor Sir Keir Starmer, the now independent MP said he hoped Labour MPs would help pave the way for a new vote.

He told the crowd at the Freemason’s Hall in Edinburgh: ‘Yes, I do support the principle of having a referendum and I hope that happens soon.

‘I suspect the British Government will try and oppose it – I hope that a Labour majority would also support a referendum. I think it’s a democratic right to decide your own future.’

The hard Left icon told the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that he would have allowed a vote to take place if he had become prime minister in 2019 instead of being embarrassingly thrashed by Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

The Islington North MP was questioned by a member of the audience about his stance on independence.

During his time as Labour leader, Mr Corbyn held a number of positions on Scottish independence, telling journalists during a visit north of the border in the lead-up to the 2019 election there would not be a vote on independence in the first term of a government he led, before saying later there would not be one ‘in the early years’ of a new parliament.

At the event on Thursday, Mr Corbyn said he would not have allowed another referendum in the first two years of his premiership.

Mr Corbyn later added: ‘My view is that if the people of Scotland want that referendum to defend their future, then they should have that right.

‘I don’t think there should be a power of veto by the UK Government or the UK prime minister on this.

‘I made clear before the 2019 election that if we went into government we would be accepting of the principle that if Scotland wanted a referendum after two years, that would be what we would agree to do – that’s what I said at the time and that’s what I stand by.’

Mr Corbyn – who was kicked out of Labour in a row over antisemitism – also told the event he had ‘been very badly treated’ by the party, but he pledged to work for his constituents if he is returned to the seat at the next general election, which is expected next year.

SNP deputy Westminster leader Mhairi Black said: ‘The former Labour leader recognises it is wrong to deny Scotland its democratic right to choose its own future – it’s time Sir Keir Starmer woke up to that reality.

‘Scotland’s future should be decided by the people who live here, and not by those in the pro-Brexit, pro-austerity Westminster establishment, who we in Scotland have rejected at elections time and again.’

However, there are also questions over whether the SNP is in any position to fight another referendum campaign.

The financial crisis engulfing the party was laid bare yesterday after it emerged it plunged more than £800,000 into the red last year.

It recorded a deficit of £804,278 as membership and donations slumped, while legal fees rocketed amid the ongoing police probe into its finances.

First Minister Humza Yousaf insisted his party was on a ‘steady footing’. But the SNP was only able to state it can continue as a ‘going concern’ because it is withholding £837,600 of membership income it was due to hand to local branches.

The latest loss for 2022 follows a £729,845 deficit in the previous year – meaning it has spent all of the £1.3million reserves it had at the start of 2021. It has instead fallen into the red, with the SNP’s liabilities now outweighing its assets by £219,629.

The accounts show the party has only £46,039 in the bank – which would not be enough to repay £60,000 still owed to former chief executive Peter Murrell if he demanded his money back.

The value of the party’s motor- home – which was seized from Mr Murrell’s mother’s house as part of the police probe – also looks to have declined. The balance sheet showed vehicles worth £100,790 at the start of 2022 but the figure was only £64,506 at the end of 2022.

The SNP books further disclose membership numbers plunged by 8,662 in the first half of this year, piling more pressure on finances.

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