By Tom Gordon

Political Editor

RICHARD Leonard has been attacked by his base on the left of Scottish Labour for his “disappointing” position on a second independence referendum.

The leader was accused of aligning himself with “those who want to wrap Scottish Labour in a union jack” by flatly opposing Indyref2.

The Campaign for Socialism, which has backed Mr Leonard throughout his leadership, said it meant Labour would “be seen as a party which prioritises defence of the Union when the majority of people in Scotland no longer do”.

It coincided with a new poll showing most Scots agree pro-independence MSPs winning a majority of seats in next May’s Holyrood election would constitute a mandate for Indyref2.

Tory Scottish Secretary Alister Jack last week said there shouldn’t be a re-run of 2014 for up to 40 years.

However the poll found 49 per cent agreed a pro-independence majority would be a mandate, 27% disagreed, 9% didn’t know and 16% neither agreed nor disagreed.

Removing undecideds, 54% agreed it was a mandate and 30% disagreed.

Campaign consultant James Mackenzie, a former head of media for the Scottish Greens who commissioned the survey, said: “Anyone who wants Scotland to get a second chance to vote on independence should vote for SNP or Green MSPs next May.

“By almost 2-to-1, the Scottish public don’t buy the cynical chat from some quarters that only an SNP-only majority would count as a mandate, nor do they accept Boris Johnson’s anti-democratic line that we shouldn’t be allowed to vote again.

“It’s unclear how anyone will make the case for the Union next time with a straight face, which is presumably why the Prime Minister would rather we don’t get the chance.

“Whether it’s about responding to the pandemic or climate change, the semi-feudal Westminster system has repeatedly proved utterly unfit for the 21st century.”

The criticism of Mr Leonard came from the CfS chair Katrina Faccenda, who will be a Labour candidate in May.

Writing in the new edition of the Scottish Left Review, Ms Faccenda began by criticising those moderate MSPs who tried unsuccessfully to remove Mr Leonard in September.

Four MSPs - James Kelly, Daniel Johnson, Jenny Marra and Mark Griffin - called for Mr Leonard to stand down, saying they had lost confidence in his leadership.

However Mr Leonard narrowly survived, and has warned the mutineers may struggle to get reselected as candidates because of their disloyalty.

Ms Faccenda, who is standing in the SNP-held Edinburgh Northern and Leith seat, said the rebels had shown an “astounding” recklessness.

She said: “Scottish Labour’s right-wing still pushes its ‘Let’s make the party as right-wing as it used to be and people will vote for us’ rhetoric’, and is evidently prepared to burn the house down as long as it is in control of the ashes.”

However, she went on: “As we unite behind Leonard, we cannot ignore the fact that he does not always represent the developing position of the Labour Left on constitutional issues and it is disappointing he does not share our position on the matter of Scottish sovereignty and a second referendum on independence.

“We understand his position as socialists who put international solidarity at the top of our agenda but we believe that only Scotland - not Westminster - must decide upon a second independence referendum.

“His reasons may be radically different from those who want to wrap Scottish Labour in a union jack, but the outcome is the same.

“We will continue to be seen as a party which prioritises defence of the Union when the majority of people in Scotland no longer do.”

Mr Leonard has said Labour’s position will be outright opposition to independence and Indyref2 in 2021, saying its ambiguous position at last year’s general election was no good.

He told the New Statesman magazine last month: “My view is: that didn’t work. People who want a second referendum or wanted an independent Scotland will vote SNP. They won’t vote Labour.”

Ben Macpherson, the current MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith, said: “The Scottish Labour Party is totally incoherent.

“On the one hand they point out the gaps in Holyrood’s powers when it comes to creating a fairer society, while on the other hand they stand allied with the Tories in opposing independence which would give Scotland these much needed powers.

“It is no wonder that the Scottish Labour Party continues to slide further into irrelevance.”

A Scottish Labour spokesperson: “Scottish Labour does not support independence. We believe that the 2021 elections must be about electing a Government and a parliament that will dedicate its entire focus to rebuilding Scotland’s economy, public services and communities after the devastating impact of Covid-19.

“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 not for a second referendum.

“We will be going into the 2021 elections with a transformative Socialist manifesto, with policies to rebuild the economy and public services, such as the Green New Deal to create jobs and lead Scotland out of a post pandemic jobs and economic slump.”

Responding to the Survation poll, SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “A clear and overwhelming number of voters believe that Scotland should have the right to decide its own future.

“Westminster’s attempts to block the will of the people have been in vain, and the pressure on Boris Johnson to respect the democratic rights of voters in Scotland is now immense.

“We didn’t vote for this Tory Brexit, and we certainly didn’t vote for Boris Johnson. They have no right to decide Scotland’s future for us.”