PM ‘running scared’ of second independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon claims

Theresa May is “running scared” of a second independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon has declared, claiming the PM “fears she would lose”.

The Scottish First Minister said her Government in Edinburgh has a “cast iron” mandate to hold another vote on the future of the UK despite the Prime Minister saying it was the “last thing” voters want.

Mrs May and Ms Sturgeon are meeting in Downing Street for face-to-face talks on the way forward for the Brexit process.

Ahead of those discussions, the First Minister said Brexit was “illustrating this fundamental point – Scotland needs the power to take our own decisions”.

“Theresa May fears she would lose an independence referendum and is clearly running scared of the verdict of the Scottish people – who must be sick and tired of being told what the Prime Minister wants,” she said.

With the Scottish Government having warned of the impact leaving the European Union could have on jobs and the economy, she added: “Frankly, what Scotland needs is much more important than what the Prime Minister wants.”

Independence, she argued, was the “only way to stop Tory ideologues driving us to disaster and Westminster governments imposing polices we didn’t vote for”.

The SNP won the 2016 Scottish election with a manifesto asserting the right to hold a second independence referendum if there was a material change in circumstances from when the previous ballot was held in 2014.

Scotland being removed from the EU against the wishes of voters was specifically cited as an example of this.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The mandate to give the people of Scotland a choice over their future is cast-iron.

“A majority of MSPs and Scottish MPs returned at the last two General Elections support holding an independence referendum in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.”

While she has already pledged to set out her views on the timing of a possible second independence referendum in a “matter of weeks”, Mrs May said any demands for another ballot were “out of touch” with the views of most Scots.

She said it was time for the First Minister to listen to the people after the country voted against independence in 2014.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs May said: “Scotland held a referendum in 2014. It was legal, it was fair, it was decisive.

“And the people clearly voted for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.

“More than that, at the last General Election, the people of Scotland again sent a very clear message that they do not want a second divisive referendum.

“But the SNP sadly are out of touch with the people of Scotland.

“They haven’t yet heard that message – ‘the last thing we want is a second independence referendum’.

“The United Kingdom should be pulling together, not being driven apart.”