THE SNP’s Westminster leader has suggested his party might work with Labour after the general election even if Keir Starmer refuses to grant a second independence referendum.

Stephen Flynn and Humza Yousaf have both said the power to hold Indyref2 would be the price of propping up a minority Labour government.

However, with the Labour leader adamantly opposed to Indyref2, Mr Flynn appeared to suggest the SNP would be willing to settle for less.

Rather than an all-or-nothing demand, the Aberdeen South MP told the Scotsman newspaper that Indyref2 would be an “extremely high priority” and floated more “meat on the bones” of devolution as another approach.

The recent local elections in England suggest Labour is on the cusp of winning a narrow majority at the general election expected in 2024, but it is by no means certain.

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Sir Keir has ruled out a coalition with the SNP in a hung parliament because of a “fundamental disagreement” with the Nationalists over the Union.

However he has refused to rule out a deal with the Liberal Democrats, who are set to take seats from the Tories across the south of England.

The prospect of a Lib-Lab pact means the SNP could find themselves frozen out of power and influence at Westminster if they insist on Indyref2 as their price for supporting Labour.

Mr Flynn said: “Everyone’s of the view that Keir’s going to be the next prime minister, and he’s likely to be the prime minister of a minority government.

“And in that case he’s going to require support to get on with his agenda and that affords us the opportunity to say ‘Well, you know what, your agenda should also involve empowering Scotland’s Parliament’.

“The devolution of energy, devolution of immigration policy, the ability to access the single market, and, of course, the big one for us, which is to ensure the powers over Scotland’s future rest in Holyrood, not in Westminster.

“We can not only help the UK Government to see some sense when it comes to the biggest issues, we can also drive home our own agenda.”

But asked if he'd be willing to work with Labour without the guarantee of a second referendum, Mr Flynn said it was “fair and reasonable” to seek further powers.

He said: "I think the ability for Holyrood to hold a referendum would be extremely high up my priority list, if not right up the top, because it is the way that Scotland can best align itself with the European Union and move forward with the benefits that come with that and solve many of the social problems and economic challenges that we face.

“Whilst we are still in the United Kingdom, I think it’s fair and reasonable to seek to ensure that Scotland’s Parliament garners additional powers and resources. Devolution doesn’t go far enough, and we’d like some meat on those bones.”

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The approach is subtler than that of some SNP MPs, including Cabinet Office spokesperson Kirsty Blackman, who said the party would do “everything we can to oppose” Labour unless it granted Indyref2, leading to her being accused of being willing to let the Tories back in. 

Asked if the SNP would still support Labour policy without the transfer of referendum powers to Holyrood, Mr Flynn added “locking the Tories out” was the “big thing to do”. 

He said: “I guess the main question is how desperate is Keir Starmer to become prime minister?

"Given some of his Tory tendencies in recent times by mimicking their policies, he’s moving away from his own initial agenda from when he became leader, [it] has shown he’s desperate to become prime minister. If he’s desperate to become prime minister, he’ll surely want to accept the democratic views of the people of Scotland. He needs to listen to us.”

The SNP won 47 of the 59 seats in Scotland at the 2019 election plus Kirkcaldy, where Neale Hanvey had been suspended by the party but appeared as SNP on the ballot.

Mr Hanvey and Kenny MacAskill have since defected to Alba, while Margret Ferrier became an independent after breaching Covid rules, leaving the SNP defending 45 seats next year.

Asked about the SNP’s prospects for the general election, Mr Flynn said: “I'm very, very optimistic about where we're going to be, come the next general election, and that is borne over two things. One, the fact that despite the challenges that we've faced so far, the party is still comfortably ahead in the polls, and our numbers are rock solid.”

Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “Stephen Flynn obviously feels as though he is pushing at an open door in setting demands for SNP support for a Labour government.

“That is because Labour and the SNP agree on the vast majority of issues – from gender reform and prisoner sentencing to higher taxation – and Labour have already committed to delivering more powers to Humza Yousaf’s SNP Government.

“It is already crystal clear that the SNP are backing a Keir Starmer Labour government in next year’s general election and that should give voters north and south of the border pause for thought.”