Theresa May accuses SNP of treating politics like a ‘game’

Jon Stone

The Prime Minister will on Friday accuse Nicola Sturgeon of treating politics like a “game” in a visit to Scotland on Friday.

Speaking at the Scottish Tories’ spring conference in Glasgow Theresa May will say the Scottish Government is neglecting school standards by apparently focusing on Scottish independence as an issue.

The SNP on Thursday night warned that Ms May risked further alienating Scottish opinion by presenting a “brick wall of Tory intransigence” to overtones of compromise.

With the union between Scotland and England under pressure in the wake of the Brexit vote, the PM will use her visit north of the border to highlight her commitment to “strengthening and sustaining the bonds that unite us”.

Her visit comes ahead of speculation that Ms Sturgeon is set to demand a second Scottish independence referendum in light of the latest Brexit developments. Ms May has pledged to leave the single market and end free movement, breaking SNP red lines laid out before and after the referendum.

The First Minister has said she believes she has a "cast iron mandate" to hold a second such ballot after Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU last year, while the rest of the UK voted to leave.

Ms May will tell the conference: “My first visit as Prime Minister was here to Scotland. I wanted to make clear that strengthening and sustaining the bonds that unite us is a personal priority for me.

“I am confident about the future of our United Kingdom and optimistic about what we can achieve together as a country."

Attacking the SNP on public services, she will say Scotland's schools are “outperformed in every category” by those in England, Northern Ireland, Estonia and Poland.

“As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I am just as concerned that young people in Dundee get a good start in life and receive the education they need to reach their full potential as I am about young people in Doncaster and Dartford," she will say.

“People in Scotland deserve a First Minister who is focused on their priorities - raising standards in education, taking care of the health service, reforming criminal justice, helping the economy prosper, improving people's lives.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to R:evolve Clothing, an upcycling workshop in Rutherglen, before making an announcement on the Climate Challenge Fund (PA wire)

The Conservatives overtook Labour to become the second largest party at Holyrood in the 2016 Scottish election.

Ms Sturgeon hit back: “If the Prime Minister thinks she can come to Scotland and sermonise about where power should lie, in the manner of one of her Tory predecessors, she should remember this:

“Her government has no mandate in Scotland, and no democratic basis to take us out of Europe and the single market against our will.

“But increasingly, this Tory Government seems to think it can do what it wants to Scotland and get away with it."

Additional reporting by PA