SCOTTISH Labour has been asked to explain its position after the First Minister of Wales, Labour’s Mark Drakeford, said the SNP had a mandate to deliver a second independence referendum. 

Drakeford, who has led Wales since 2018 and now governs in cooperation with pro-independence Plaid Cymru, made the comments on BBC Radio Four on Friday.

The Labour first minister was speaking about the topic of Unionism when he was asked if a new prime minister should “give Nicola Sturgeon the referendum on independence that she wants for Scotland”. Drakeford suggested that they should.

READ MORE: SNP to apply to intervene in Supreme Court's indyref2 case, NEC decides

He said: “I’ve always been clear that if you have a government that is elected by its people with such a proposition in its manifesto it should have the right to implement that manifesto.

“The Scottish National Party, much as I disagree with them on the issue, won an election on the basis that they would seek another referendum.

“How can that be denied to the Scottish people?”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has been staunch in his opposition to a second referendum, insisting it is a “distraction”.

In the 2021 Holyrood election – which saw Scottish Labour return just 22 MSPs, its poorest ever result – Sarwar pledged to oppose indyref2 for the entirety of the parliamentary term.

The National: Keir Starmer

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer (above) has also publicly opposed a vote, saying he would follow Boris Johnson in refusing to grant a Section 30 order should he become prime minister.

Drakeford’s comments have piled pressure on Sarwar to explain his opposition.

SNP MP Drew Hendry wrote on Twitter: “At last a sensible voice from an elected Labour parliamentarian. First Minister @MarkDrakeford of Wales. A simple democratic position.

“Why can't @AnasSarwar have the same principle?”

Paul McLennan, SNP MSP for East Lothian, said Sarwar was at odds with his Welsh counterpart by denying the mandate for a second independence referendum.

He said: “Respecting the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland should not be ground-breaking, but Mark Drakeford has set himself apart from democracy deniers Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer by recognising the cast-iron mandate delivered for a referendum.

“Anas Sarwar’s democracy-denying position has been laid bare once again by the Welsh First Minister.

“If Labour in Wales recognise the democratic will of the people of Scotland, why won’t Scottish Labour?”

The National:

Scottish Labour has not responded to The National's request for comment. However, Labour MSP Sarah Boyack (above) told the PA news agency: “Contrary to the SNP’s spin, most Scots don’t want a referendum next year.

“People want the Scottish Government to focus on tackling the cost-of-living crisis and saving our struggling NHS.

“While the SNP peddle division and empty promises, Scottish Labour are fighting to build a better future for Scotland using the powers we have right now.”

Speaking to the BBC on Friday, Drakeford also addressed the “imperialist Unionism” of the Tory government under Johnson.

Asked about scrapped plans for an eight-storey Union flag in the centre of Cardiff, Drakeford said: “It’s not a good idea because you do not strengthen the Union by the aggressive approach to it that the Johnson administration adopted.

“It was the whole size of one of the major buildings of Cardiff. It would have looked like something out of Eastern Europe.”

Asked if he was a Unionist, Drakeford said: “I believe in the Union.”

However, he said the flags which are flown on government buildings in Wales are “proportionate” and don’t “seek to dominate the landscape with that aggressive message of a sort of imperialist Unionism in which a UK Government seeks to impose itself on other parts of the United Kingdom”.

He said such Unionism “only adds to the fissures”.