Theresa May in bid to calm Scotland's Brexit fears


Theresa May is using her first official visit as Prime Minister to try to persuade Scotland that there is nothing to fear in a post-Brexit UK.

As the shockwaves from her radical Cabinet clear-out continued to surge through the Tory party, Mrs May turned her attention to preserving the union as she headed to Edinburgh for talks with SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The PM was telling Scots she believed "with all my heart" in keeping the UK together after Ms Sturgeon warned that a backlash against Brexit made a second independence referendum "highly likely".

The priority given to the visit was intended to show Mrs May wanted to "fully engage" with the Scottish government over the looming negotiations to secure the best possible "divorce" deal for Britain from the EU.

Speaking ahead of the visit, the Prime Minister said: "I believe with all my heart in the United Kingdom - the precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This visit to Scotland is my first as Prime Minister and I'm coming here to show my commitment to preserving this special union that has endured for centuries.

"And I want to say something else to the people of Scotland too: the Government I lead will always be on your side. Every decision we take, every policy we take forward, we will stand up for you and your family - not the rich, the mighty or the powerful.

"That's because I believe in a union, not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens. Whether it's reforming the economy or strengthening our society, we are going to build a better Britain and a nation that works for everyone - not just the privileged few."

With Scotland voting 62% to 38% to remain in the EU at the Brexit referendum, Ms Sturgeon has warned it would be against the country's national interest to be forced out of the bloc by pro-withdrawal majorities in England and Wales.

Mrs May's move came as sacked Tory colleagues were still reeling from the way she swept key David Cameron supporters from the Cabinet in a far more dramatic reshaping of the top team than expected.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was booed by some audience members at his first public appearance in the role at Bastille Day celebrations at the French ambassador's residence. His opposite number in the Paris government has branded the ex-London mayor a "liar".

Mrs May insisted her Cabinet shake-up was "bold" and necessary after she dismissed George Osborne, Michael Gove, Oliver Letwin, Nicky Morgan and John Whittingdale.

But the overhaul only resulted in the number of women in Cabinet climbing by one to eight, and some Tory MPs expressed confusion over who would control Brexit policy as three outspoken Leave campaigners - Mr Johnson, David Davis at the new department for EU withdrawal, and Liam Fox, who was put in charge of International Trade - were all placed in control of different aspects of the project.

The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman said: "This is a bold Cabinet. It's hitting the ground running. What you have seen with the appointments today is that commitment to putting social reform at the heart of her Government."

Labour said the promotion of a string of right-wingers contradicted Mrs May's "warm words" on her entry into 10 Downing Street about seeking to govern "not for a privileged few, but for every one of us".

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband expressed concern at the apparent down-grading of climate change policy in the shake-up of Whitehall departments , branding the move "stupid".

Mrs May is now expected to announce a raft of junior minister portfolios.