Rule Out Indy Ref Until 2021, Says Kezia

26 September 2016, 16:43 | Updated: 26 September 2016, 16:44

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has challenged Nicola Sturgeon to rule out calling an independence referendum within the next five years.

In a message to the First Minister of Scotland, she warned against increasing the divisions in a country already split by the Brexit vote.

Addressing the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, she said Scotland faced enough "risk and uncertainty'' following the UK vote to leave the European Union (EU).

Ms Dugdale called on the First Minister to refrain from holding a referendum for the lifetime of the current Scottish parliament, which lasts until 2021.

She said: "In the rush to find a way through Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon is being forced to face both ways - to please her supporters and try to steer the country through a tough time.

"But she needs to get back to the bread-and-butter issues.

"Scotland faces enough risk and uncertainty with the Tories' reckless Brexit gamble. We do not need the risk and uncertainty of another independence referendum.''

Labour would vote against any proposal for a second referendum in this parliament, Ms Dugdale said.

In a direct appeal to Ms Sturgeon, she said: "First Minister, our country is already divided enough. Do not divide us again.''

Ms Dugdale's deputy Alex Rowley has previously indicated he would not oppose a second referendum but sources made clear the whole party would be bound by Labour's manifesto commitment.

The Scottish Labour leader accused the Tories of the "worst type of constitutional vandalism'' over the general election campaign, the EU referendum and the ``English votes for English laws'' changes in Westminster which "created two classes of MPs''.

She said: "Don't let Ruth Davidson ever tell you again that the Union is safe in Tory hands.''

Ms Dugdale also committed Labour to seeking to amend the Scottish budget to raise the basic rate of income tax by 1p and to restore the 50p top rate for the highest earners north of the border.

The measures would "enable us to stop further cuts to the public services we all rely on'', she said.

She warned that if the SNP administration did not accept the changes and sought to implement ``another austerity budget'', Labour would oppose it.

Labour claims the 50p rate will raise about #80 million, which would be invested in schools, while the 1p hike in income tax would bring in #400 million.