The Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, confirmed on Saturday that the party will campaign against holding a second independence referendum in next year’s Holyrood election.
After meeting with the Scottish Executive Committee, Leonard said that they would continue their support for a programme of home rule, devolution and democratic advance as part of the United Kingdom.
The Scottish Labour leader reaffirmed the party's opposition to independence and support for the union, planning further devolution for the whole UK and renewed arrangements based on a “progressive federal structure”.
Leonard said that the committee's position, in the wake of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic, is that Scotland does not need “more constitutional turmoil and economic instability”.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the terms of the constitutional debate in Scotland", Leonard said, adding that the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections must focus on "rebuilding Scotland’s economy, public services and communities" following the coronavirus pandemic.
“That work must be the focus of the next Scottish Government and so we will be going into that election in 2021 with a Scottish Labour Party position that is opposed to a second referendum", he said. “If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything it is that people do not want to be divided. Communities want and need to come together. We thrive when we are working towards the common good.”
The position has received significant backlash from nationalists who have accused the Labour party of being out of touch with public sentiment following polling results that indicate a growing desire for independence.
The deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, Keith Brown, said that Leonard's policy indicates how Labour is alienating the public.
“The party’s top brass aren’t just out of touch with the electorate, though, they are blatantly ignoring their own members and politicians who have publicly backed Scotland’s right to choose a better future", Brown said.
“No wonder support for the Labour party has totally collapsed in Scotland and they have lost the trust of voters".
The announcement follows a poll by Panelbase which showed 52 percent support Scottish independence as Westminster becomes increasingly embroiled in scandal amid the coronavirus pandemic.
UK (Scotland), Panelbase poll:— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) June 5, 2020
Should Scotland be an independent country?
Yes: 52% (+2)
No: 48% (-2)
+/- vs. 1-5 May 2020
Fieldwork: 28 May - 5 June 2020
Sample size: 1,022#indyref2 #Brexit pic.twitter.com/ffHxDgfDSf
A 2014 independence referendum in Scotland saw a loss for the nationalist vote, with 55 percent in support of staying in the United Kingdom and 45 percent for leaving.
In 2015, Labour lost its position as the largest party in Scotland in Westminster. Since then the SNP has retained mass support across the country.
In the 2019 general election, Scotland returned nationalist MPs to parliament by a large majority, taking both Labour and Conservative seats.
As the unionist vote has drifted from Labour and shifted increasingly behind the Tories, Leonard's prospects for next year's Scottish Parliamentary elections have diminished significantly.