Nicola Sturgeon has said the British Prime Minister has no rational argument against a second independence referendum following discussions between the two leaders over the Brexit timetable.
The First Minister wants to hold another vote on leaving the UK between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 – a timescale Theresa May is set to reject. Mrs May has said a referendum during that period would be “unfair” to voters because they would not have all the necessary information to make a choice.
Following a meeting in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon insisted the Prime Minister had been clear the terms of the UK’s divorce from the EU and the details of a new free trade deal would be known within two years.
“I think it makes it very difficult for the Prime Minister to maintain a rational opposition to a referendum in the timescale I have set out,” Ms Sturgeon said. “I think she has got a perfectly rational opposition to a referendum now, which is why I am not proposing it.
“But I think based on the discussion today I would struggle to see what her rational opposition to it would be in the timescale we have been talking about.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “She (Mrs May) is absolutely adamant that she believes the terms of Brexit, by which she means the exit terms, the divorce deal, and the detail of the comprehensive free trade agreement – in other words the future relationship between the UK and the EU – will be clear before the UK exits the EU.
“When I put it to her that what she was suggesting was that in a period of 18 months to two years from now, the terms of the future relationship of the UK and the EU would be clear, she said yes that is what she was saying.”
The meeting came just a day before the Scottish Parliament is expected to pass a vote in favour of seeking another independence referendum, and two days before Mrs May is due to trigger Article 50.
Ms Sturgeon described the talks as “cordial” and “business-like”, although she said Mrs May had made no offer on powers to be devolved to Scotland as part of the Brexit process.
“I think it’s fair to say that there is still no real guarantee that powers repatriated to Brussels in areas that are currently devolved will not end up being centralised at Westminster, and there was no real willingness to talk about powers beyond that, for example powers over employment law or immigration.”
Asked about what would happen if her call for another referendum was formally rejected, Ms Sturgeon said: “I will set that out in due course. I actually have views in my mind around that.
“If their position remains as it is right now, I will set out to Parliament what I think the next steps should be.”
Ahead of the meeting, Mrs May told reporters her position will not change on Ms Sturgeon’s call for a referendum by spring 2019.