AN SNP demand for a second referendum must be taken seriously if the party wins a majority at Holyrood, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

“If there’s a majority it’s got to be looked at in Westminster,” the UK Labour leader said this morning ahead of his party’s virtual autumn conference.

Polls currently predict the SNP on course for their second majority at next year’s election.

Sir Keir’s comments on Sky’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday echo some he made earlier this year on STV when he argued for a new constitutional convention and enhanced devolution.

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However, his words now carry the weight of coming from the leader of the opposition and raise the question of how Labour at Westminster would react to a demand for Indyref2.

Boris Johnson has dismissed the idea out of hand, saying the No result of 2014 should be the once-in-a-generation vote Nicola Sturgeon promised on the campaign trail.

Asked if there should be another referendum if the SNP win next year, Sir Keir said: “I think another independence referendum will be divisive, and that’s why Labour will be campaigning into the May elections on the economy, rebuilding the economy, on ensuring our public services are in the right place and defeating the coronavirus.

“I’m frustrated that, in a sense, in the middle of a pandemic, we have the SNP talking about independence, we have the Tories talking about Brexit when in my view they should be focusing on pulling together to defeat the virus.”

Sir Keir was then reminded of a statement he made on a visit to Scotland in January this year, before he became leader when he said that if the SNP won another majority they would have a mandate for another referendum.

He said at the time: “I absolutely accept this is a question for Scotland and the people of Scotland. If there’s a majority it has to be looked at in Westminster.”

Pressed again today on whether he thought there should be a referendum or not if the SNP win a majority, he said: “Look, this is a question for Scotland and the people of Scotland.

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“If there’s a majority it’s got to be looked at in Westminster.

“But the Labour party will be campaigning into May on the basis that what we don’t want is another divisive referendum.”

Pressed again on whether Indyref2 should be looked at if there is an SNP majority, Sir Keir replied: ”That’s of course beyond May of next year. What I’m focused on, and I was up in Scotland with Scottish Labour this week, talking about our priorities and our strategy for getting from here to May of next year and making the arguments that we think matter most, which are about the economy, public services and tackling the virus.”

Asked what Labour’s position would be if the SNP won a majority, he changed the subject.

He said: “Let us focus on what we need to do now, which is getting to May and those elections, dealing with the virus, and everybody in politics says things with great certainty.

“I’m sure back in December of last year if you’d said we’d be in the middle of the pandemic and we wouldn’t even be able to meet for conference people would have said I don’t believe that’s going to happen. Let’s focus on the here and now. 

“I honestly that across the whole of the United Kingdom and in Scotland, most people think, “What are you going to bring this infection under control and deal with the pandemic.”

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On Covid, Sir Keir said Boris Johnson should apologise for testing being "all over the place" and children should be tested as a priority to minimise disruption to schools.

Stressing his party was now under “new leadership”, he said he did share one thing in common with his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn - vegetarianism.

He said he had given up meat as “a matter of principle years ago on the basis that it wasn’t the right thing for the body and the planet”.

He said he desperately missed “bacon sandwiches, chicken curry, almost everything. This is hard work for me.”