The shadow chancellor John McDonnell has claimed the SNP are “Tories” as he ruled out forming a coalition with the party in the event of a hung parliament.
Mr McDonnell was roundly criticised by members of his own party after he said Labour would not rule out a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard held a hasty meeting with Mr McDonnell following his remarks, which go against the Scottish party’s policy on another independence vote.
Mr McDonnell doubled down by adding he would “block” a second vote, but added it would be “irrelevant” if Labour won the next election.
Edinburgh Labour MP Ian Murray accused the shadow chancellor of changing policy “on the hoof” and called on him to apologise.
A poll released this week by Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft showed a majority support for a second referendum on separation and a majority of those polled said they would vote in favour of Scottish independence.
Mr McDonnell has distanced himself from the idea of forming a coalition with the SNP, saying the nationalists were not “progressive”.
He said: “I don’t want to be derogatory in any form but let me try. In my own view, I think (the SNP) are Tories, it’s as simple as that and always have thought that.
“Our view is that another independence referendum is irrelevant, we’ve got to concentrate on the real issues facing people and yes, there will be a debate about the attitude of the UK Parliament and I’ve made my view clear on that,” he said.
“My view is exactly in line with Richard Leonard, which is we concentrate on the real issues, the independence referendum is a complete diversion.
“But I’ve also said continuously, I’m not being set up by Nicola Sturgeon to blame the UK Government for blocking the will of the Scottish people – that’s too trite a political manoeuvre that’s been taken on at the moment.
“In the situation we’re in at the moment, my view is that we will not be blocking a proposal.
“The best way forward in all of this is to elect a Labour government. We’ll demonstrate what we can do and then I think the Scottish people won’t be interested in another referendum.
“But if they ever do come back, my view is you can’t be in a situation where you block it.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “I met with John on Wednesday morning and I made clear to him that a second independence referendum is unwanted by the people of Scotland and it is unnecessary.
“The 2014 referendum was a once in a generation vote.
“There is no economic case for independence, especially with the SNP’s new position of ditching the pound and new policy of turbo-charged austerity to bear down on the deficit.
“On that John McDonnell and I are in firm agreement – what Scotland needs is radical reforming Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster.”
Dundee East MP, Stewart Hosie said: “This is just yet more proof that Richard Leonard is woefully out-of-touch with the people he claims to represent.
“It begs belief that, two days after a poll showed majority support for independence, the Scottish Labour leader would then claim the people of Scotland don’t want another referendum.
“John McDonnell’s comments were, as the First Minister said, a statement of basic democracy. The future of the people of Scotland will be determined by the people of Scotland – not Richard Leonard, Boris Johnson, Ruth Davidson or any other who would seek to put Scotland back in its box.
“The Ashcroft poll isn’t the only poll Leonard should be worried about. A recent poll of Scottish Labour members showed that 40% support independence and a majority would be in favour of the party working with the SNP. If Leonard isn’t careful we may experience, yet another, Scottish Labour Leadership election very soon.”