Theresa May used her first campaign visit to Scotland yesterday to dismiss Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that she would agree another independence referendum if the SNP won on June 8.
The Prime Minister refused to support Ms Sturgeon's suggestion that her opposition to holding another vote on breaking-up Britain will “crumble to dust” if the SNP take most seats north of the border.
Mrs May instead said she would only allow a new vote if there was clear evidence that the people of Scotland wanted one - something not currently the case according to polls.
She told supporters: “We want to ensure that we build a more secure and united nation and that means taking action against the extremists who would divide us and standing up against the separatists who want to break up our country.”
It came as an ORB International poll for The Sunday Telegraph revealed how the Tories have pulled ahead of Labour in Scotland.
Some 27 per cent of voters were found to back the Tories - far higher than the 16 per cent supporting Labour. The SNP was well ahead of both parties.
The findings are a major turnaround from the 2015 general election, when Labour got 24 per cent of the vote and the Tories just 15 per cent.
In further signs of how far Mrs May’s Conservatives have gained support in traditional Labour areas, the Tories are now also polling ahead of Labour in London and Yorkshire.
Mrs May has told the SNP that “now is not the time” for a new vote and reinforced that message at a campaign rally in a rural village hall in Crathes, Aberdeenshire.
She said: “What we should be doing today is not talking about a second independence referendum, we should be working together not pulling apart.
“Every vote for me and my team in this election will be a vote for strengthening our hand in the Brexit negotiations that will strengthen our hand to get the best possible deal for businesses and people here in Scotland and across the whole of the United Kingdom.
“I said now is not the time because I believe right now we should be working together not pulling apart, I believe we should be showing a strong hand as the United Kingdom because that is the best way to get the best possible deal for people here in Scotland and across the whole of the UK from our Brexit negotiations as we leave the European Union.”
The Prime Minister said another independence vote was about “what people want in Scotland”, adding: “If you think about it what Nicola Sturgeon is suggesting is a referendum towards the end of the negotiations. How would Scottish people be able to decided when they wouldn’t actually know what the future held for them.”
The latest poll suggests the Tories, who currently have one MP north of the border, will pick up seven seats from the SNP, to record their best general election result in Scotland for a generation, with the Liberal Democrats gaining two and the Nationalists losing nine overall.
Angus Robertson, the SNP Westminster leader whose Moray seat is under threat according to polls, claimed the Prime Minister’s visit failed to shed any light on key policy issues and accused her of “crassly” associating extremists with separatists.
He said: ”She also has a funny way of trying to win votes in Scotland. By referring to extremists and so-called separatists in the same breath, she risks insulting almost half of the Scottish electorate. Language is important and the Prime Minister needs to clean up her act.”