SIR KEIR Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of “failing to hold the Union together”, as he said Labour would firmly oppose a second independence referendum in next year's Holyrood election campaign.

The Labour leader said England, Wales, Scotland and Northern were “heading off in all sorts of different directions” on the Prime Minister’s watch.

He said: "I strongly support the United Kingdom. It's in all of our interests to hold together the UK. No one in the Labour party wants the UK broken up."

Despite naming himself minister for the Union, Mr Johnson’s premiership has coincided with sustained majority support for Scottish independence for the first time.

Appearing on LBC radio this morning, Sir Keir criticised the Prime Minister over the new UK Internal Market Bill at Westminster which would break international law by overriding part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement signed between the UK and the EU.

The UK Government has also claimed the EU is threatening to deny the UK “third country” status, which would mean a possible block on the UK’s £5bn of annual food exports to Europe.

The EU denies this, but says it needs to know what the UK’s detailed plans are before it can include the UK on its approved third country list.

Disputing the UK Government’s interpretation, Sir Keir said: “Because Brexit’s become so tiresome and there’s been so much misinformation that we’re almost numbed by it.

“The way the government was spinning yesterday was not the accurate situation. 

“We will be a third party state of course when we’re outside the EU.

“As to what the checks and balances are across the United Kingdom, that can be resolved with the EU and resolved within the United Kingdom.

“We will support legislation that sensibly does that.

“Boris Johnson, amongst other things, should be getting the four nations together.

“England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are heading off in all sorts of different directions now on this and on Covid.

“What the Prime Minister is failing to do is hold the Union together, you know.

“Look across the Union and we’re seeing all countries going in different directions.

“For heaven’s sake, pull it together, lead from the front, lead for the United Kingdom, get a deal, focus on the pandemic.”

Sir Keir has refused to intervene in the row over Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard despite his poor electoral prospects being seen as a threat to the Union.

Mr Leonard, who has been urged to quit by four of his MSPs, narrowly avoided a no confidence vote at Scottish Labour's ruling body on Saturday.

The Scottish Tories said if Labour couldn't stand up to Mr Leonard, it could never stand up for the Union.

Asked if the Union was safe in Labour's hands, Sir Keir told LBC: "Yes. I strongly support the United Kingdom.

"I think it's in all of our interests to hold together the UK - I think dealing with the pandemic has shown that.

"We need to make the case for the UK.  

"No one in the Labour party wants the UK broken up."

Asked if he would stand in the way of a potential second independence referendum, he said: "We will go into the elections in Scotland making the argument for the Union and making the argument that we don't need a referendum.

"Obviously, that election is in May of next year and we'll make the best case we can between now and then."

Deputy SNP leader Keith Brown said: “The most recent polls show support for Scottish independence consistently sitting at over 50% - the momentum is very much with the Yes campaign.

"Labour's opposition to a referendum is completely unsustainable - particularly when many of its own members recognise that to stand in the way of one would be undemocratic.

“But ultimately it’s not up to Keir Starmer or any other politician to determine if there is a referendum on independence – that should be a matter for the people of Scotland themselves.
“The more the Tories and Labour try to ignore Scotland’s democratic mandate to choose our own future, the more support for a fresh referendum – and for independence itself – will continue to grow.”