SIR Keir Starmer has refused to rule out granting Holyrood the power to hold an independence referendum.

The UK Labour leader was criticised by the Tories after only discounting Indyref2 “at the moment” while on a visit to Glasgow with his Scottish counterpart Anas Sarwar.

Nicola Sturgeon asked Boris Johnson to transfer referendum powers to Holyrood, known as a Section 30 order, in December 2019.

The Prime Minister refused, saying the No result of 2014 should stand for a generation.

Asked if he would refuse to grant a Section 30 order to allow Indyref2 if he was Prime Minister, Sir Keir said: “At the moment, I think the focus has to absolutely be on the recovery. Therefore if I was PM, I would be working across all four nations on the recovery.

“Look at the huge things we’ve faced as one United Kingdom over the centuries.

“We’ve fought slavery together we fought fascism together, we’ve now gone into a pandemic that’s thrown up some of the biggest challenges since the Second World War.

“We need to come out of it as one United Kingdom working together on the recovery.

“If I was Prime Minister that would be my 24/7, day-in day-out focus.”

Asked if Mr Johnson was right to refuse a Section 30 order at this stage, Mr Sarwar interrupted Sir Keir and wrongly claimed: “One’s not been requested at this stage.

"I think it’s important to say one’s not been requested at this stage and we’ve still got an election to come, and I don’t think the SNP are going to get a majority in that election.”

Sir Keir, who could need SNP support to become Prime Minister in a hung parliament, also refused to say in September if Labour would ever support Indyref2.

He said he was opposed to a new vote before May’s Holyrood election, but failed to say if he would oppose it afterwards, and said an SNP majority could not be ignored.

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

Speaking yesterday, Sir Keir said the country faced a “real economic crisis” in the autumn as the jobs furlough scheme comes to an end.

He said: “Generations to come will not forgive us if we do not focus on the single most important task, which is recovery, particularly for the economy but also for our public services and health. What happens in the next few years is absolutely critical.

“That idea that in the middle of that critical period, we should set aside time for a referendum is wrong in principle, it's the wrong priority.

“I do think we are better as a United Kingdom, but if we just have a sterile debate on the status quo and independence, then we are not hearing what people are saying to us about their frustrations.

"I understand those frustrations. Many, many people in Scotland feel that Westminster is far too far away, that Boris Johnson doesn’t share their values.

"Buut our task over the coming years is to say that it has to be England or Scotland or Wales of Northern Ireland is wrong, actually we need to make the argument it’s got to be England and Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland.

"We went into this pandemic together, we need to come through this recovery together and pull together at this vital period across the United Kingdom.

“Generations to come will not forgive us if we do not put everything we’ve got behind this recovery.”

Mr Sarwar added: "I do not support independence and I do not support a referendum.

“I want us to have a parliament that focuses on national priorities, not the Nationalist priorities.

“When we have a pandemic election, I think it does not do justice to Scottish people’s lives and livelihoods are still at risk."

Mr Sarwar said he would not be First Minister after May, but wanted Labour to be a "strong opposition", and ready for power in 2026.

“My position on the constitution is clear. What I’m saying is, let’s focus on what unites out country, not divides out country. The Tories can’t do it, the SNP can’t do it. I’m determined the Labour party I lead does it from the front.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused Labour of being “weak on the Union”.

He said: “Keir Starmer’s refusal to confirm that he would rule out a request from the SNP for another independence referendum shows how weak Labour continue to be in standing up for our Union.

"His party are ashamed of how we fought to keep our United Kingdom together in 2014."