Theresa May has accused the Scottish First Minister of using Brexit for “one thing and one thing only” – to press her “obsession” with independence.
The British Prime Minister hit out at Nicola Sturgeon, claiming the SNP leader did not have the same “old-fashioned belief in democracy” that she has.
She criticised Ms Sturgeon for both backing a People’s Vote on Brexit and for pushing for a second Scottish independence referendum, with the First Minister having already declared her intention to have another such vote within the next two years.
— ScotConservatives (@ScotTories) May 3, 2019
Mrs May said her SNP rival had put the “divisive” issue of independence back on the agenda immediately after the Brexit referendum in June 2016.
She told the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen: “I would have welcomed a First Minister of Scotland who wanted to work with me to deliver a good Brexit deal for the UK.”
Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly claimed her Scottish Government offered to compromise on Brexit, arguing for both Scotland and the UK to remain part of the single market and customs union, only for UK ministers to reject their calls.
But on the issue of a “good Brexit deal for the UK”, Mrs May said: “I knew from the start that Nicola Sturgeon was not interested in that outcome.
“She saw Brexit as an opportunity to further her party’s obsession with one thing and one thing only – independence.”
Mrs May said “before the dust had even begun to settle” on the Brexit result in 2016, the First Minister had “invited the television cameras into Bute House to put the most divisive issue in Scottish politics, in her words, back on the table.”
She accused the SNP leader of wanting to “re-run the independence referendum because she did not like the decision of the people of Scotland”.
Mrs May went on to criticise the First Minister’s support for a second Brexit referendum.
She said: “Let me just put it this way, I have an old-fashioned belief that in a democracy, if you put a question to the people, you should respect the answer they give you.
“That seems to be a pretty big difference between Nicola Sturgeon and me.”
On fighting to keep Scotland part of the United Kingdom, the PM pledged: “We have never stopped making this case. And we never will.”
She told the conference: “Scotland’s success matters to me. It matters to everyone who cares about our United Kingdom.
“And a Conservative government will always put the interests of our union first.”
— Eddie Barnes (@EddieBarnes23) May 3, 2019
The Prime Minister hailed Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, saying she had transformed the party north of the border.
With Ms Davidson having just returned to frontline politics from maternity leave, Mrs May said she had shown that “success in one of the biggest jobs in British politics should be no barrier to a woman starting a family”.
Under Ms Davidson’s leadership, the Scottish Tories have risen to become the second largest party at Holyrood.
At the next Scottish elections in 2021, Mrs May said her party would “offer the people of Scotland a Government that is devoted 100% to improving the lives of Scots – a Scottish Conservative Government”.