SIR Keir Starmer has been branded “utterly hypocritical” after he accused the First Minister of attempting to “stand in the way of common sense” with her ‘de facto’ referendum plans.

The Labour leader suggested he would reject the SNP leader’s mandate to open up independence negotiations with the UK Government if he is the next prime minister, despite insisting a Labour government would hold a mandate to roll out its constitutional overhaul.

Following its Supreme Court defeat over Holyrood holding its own referendum, the SNP is pressing ahead with using the next UK general election as a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence.

Sir Keir was speaking after launching the Scottish part of proposals drawn up by Gordon Brown for Labour’s commission on the UK’s future.

Mr Brown labelled the blueprint for change as “the biggest transfer of power out of Westminster and Whitehall” that “our country has seen”.

Under the plans, Holyrood would gain powers to join some international schemes such as Erasmus while control over job centres would be localised.

It also advocates for devolution within Scotland such as elected mayors.

Failing to reform the centre of the UK was the “missing element” of Labour’s devolution plans, Mr Brown said, something his new report seeks to address.

Asked about Ms Sturgeon’s plans for a de facto referendum, Sir Keir insisted: “It is a general election between carry on with the Conservative government or change it to a Labour government. No amount of discussion by other people is going to change the terms of a general election.

“That is what a general election is about: what government do you want to lead on the economy, on international matters, or security, on defence on conflict in Ukraine, on the health service, or the cost of living, the energy crisis?"

He added: “These are not issues that can be reduced by somebody else into a completely different constitutional question. That is what a general election is about - all those issues.

“And the idea that all of that is as naught, nobody is interested in those questions, we're arguing about something that Nicola Sturgeon defines in that way, is just to stand in the way of common sense of what a general election is about.”

A spokesperson for the First Minister said: “Labour’s position is utterly hypocritical and merely underlines their anti-democratic credentials.

“They will claim a mandate for their constitutional proposals regardless of whether or not voters in Scotland endorse them, and yet they will simultaneously stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tories in blocking the cast-iron democratic mandate which exists for an independence referendum.

“That stance is simply unsustainable. People in Scotland want an escape from a chaotic Westminster and they will not get that from Starmer’s pro-Brexit Labour party – only independence will deliver the change needed.”

Sir Keir was asked what he would do if he were prime minister and pro-independence parties achieved more than 50% of the vote in Scotland.

He said: “I know there are lots of attempts to re-frame the next general election, but a general election is a general election across the whole of the United Kingdom about what government do you want in Westminster.”

He said the contest between a Labour or Tory government was “the central divide, the central most important question that will be before the country”.