THE SNP will have a mandate for a second independence referendum if it wins the 2021 Holyrood election, the favourite to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader has said.

Sir Keir Starmer said the future of Scotland “is obviously a matter for Scotland”, but argued independence would not be the right way forward.

During a visit to Holyrood, he called for a “new constitutional settlement” based around federalism or further devolution.

The shadow Brexit secretary said Labour needed to have “blunt conversations across Scotland and across the UK” to rebuild trust.

Asked if the SNP will have a mandate for a second referendum if it wins the 2021 Holyrood election, he said: “They will have a mandate for that. What I want to do is to make the case going into that election that actually neither the status quo nor independence is the right way forward.

“And what we need is, whether you call it federalism or much more meaningful devolution, a different constitutional settlement."

Pushed on this by journalists, he said: “The future of Scotland is obviously a matter for Scotland.

“I’m here to have a discussion about a new constitutional settlement – a federal settlement, if you like, but certainly a new settlement – that is neither the status quo nor independence, neither of which I think are right for Scotland or the UK.

“I’m here very much to listen and to talk to colleagues."

Sir Keir said it was “very important” that the leader of the Labour Party does not “impose anything on Scotland or Scottish Labour”.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell caused chaos last year during a visit to Edinburgh when he said Labour would not stand in the way of a second referendum. This contradicted the Scottish party’s policy.

Elsewhere, Sir Keir was asked about comments by fellow leadership contender Emily Thornberry, who said she hated the SNP.

He said: “I don’t hate the SNP. I don’t hate any political party.

"For me this is about winning – I want to win elections, so it’s not about hating other politicians or other political parties.”

It came as Labour Movement for Europe, a pro-EU campaign group, announced it will nominate Sir Keir and Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray for Labour leader and deputy leader.