Nicola Sturgeon claims Dugdale wanted to drop opposition to vote
The SNP chief plunged her rival’s general election campaign into chaos after suggesting she made the offer during private talks in the wake of last June’s Brexit vote.
Tories, who hope to again push Labour into third place in the ballot, seized on the "bombshell" comments in tonight’s final leaders’ TV debate.
The constitution dominated much of the heated clashes live on STV with less than a day of full campaigning till polling stations open.
You used to agree with me on that
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, Ms Dugdale and Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie repeatedly challenged the First Minister to drop her demands for another divisive vote on independence.
In a furious tirade Ms Davidson accused Ms Sturgeon of “trying to con” voters recalling a similar TV debate before last year’s Holyrood poll in which she promised there would not be another vote without a shift in public opinion.
But the First Minister insisted her rivals were “obsessed” with independence insisting the country should be offered a ballot following the UK wide decision to quit the EU.
Willie Rennie, Ruth Davidson, Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale
Challenging Ms Sturgeon during a fiery cross-examination: “Do you understand just how angry people are with you and your plans for a second independence referendum.”
Turning directly to Ms Dugdale, Ms Sturgeon replied: “You used to agree with me on that.
“You and I spoke the day after the EU referendum and you told me then that you thought the change occasioned by Brexit meant Labour should stop opposing a referendum.”
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Kezia Dugdale challenged Ms Sturgeon during a fiery cross-examination
Ms Dugdale did not deny the claim, but said: “I have always said I would do anything you did to build our relationship with Europe as long as it didn’t come at the expense of our relationship with the United Kingdom.”
But Ms Sturgeon hit back: “You know that’s not quite true.”
Picking up on the comments Ms Davidson asked the First Minister to clarify the conversation she had had with Ms Dugdale.
Nicola Sturgeon's comical moments on the campaign trail Mon, May 22, 2017 Play slideshow PA 1 of 13
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon stops for an ice cream after making an election campaign visit to Scottish Gas HQ in Granton, Edinburgh
Ms Sturgeon said: “She said she didn’t think Labour could go on opposing a second independence.
“She is entitled to change her mind, I accept that, but what no politician is entitled to do is to deny people in Scotland a choice over our own future.”
Ms Dugdale’s Holyrood campaign was dogged by accusations of flip-flopping over the independence question but has offered a “cast-iron guarantee” that the party will oppose another poll.
The leaders debate took place at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow
The clashes at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow come after Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly talked up the prospect of striking a deal to help Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street.
Last week, the Labour leader admitted he would be prepared to ‘open discussions’ with the SNP Government about another independence referendum if he became prime minister. He has also said that he would be ‘absolutely fine’ with the idea of another vote.
Speaking after the debate Scottish Tory spokesman Adam Tomkins said: “This is a bombshell revelation which holes Scottish Labour’s entire campaign below the waterline.
“Kezia Dugdale has spent this campaign claiming she opposes a second independence referendum, now we learn she’s been having private chats with Nicola Sturgeon about her support for it.
“It is an utter disgrace and it proves that the only pro-UK vote at this election is for the Scottish Conservatives.”
Ms Dugdale later denied the First Minister's claims on social media tweeting: "Any suggestion that I ever said to Sturgeon that I'd change Labour's position on #indyref2 is a categoric lie + shows how desperate she is."