Theresa May: There's no economic case for breaking up the UK

Sunita Patel-Carstairs, News Reporter

Theresa May has told Nicola Sturgeon to stop playing politics with Brexit and has accused the SNP of "twisting the truth to further their obsession of independence".

In a speech at the Scottish Tory conference in Glasgow, the Prime Minister said "politics is not a game" and also condemned the Scottish National Party's record in government on education.

"A tunnel vision nationalism, which focuses only on independence at any cost, sells Scotland short," said Mrs May.

"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."

But the first minister had already hit back, claiming her attempts to reach a Brexit compromise had been met by a "brick wall of Tory intransigence".

:: Is a second Scottish referendum on the cards?

More: Will Brexit Drive Scotland out of the United Kingdom?

The latest clash between Mrs May and Ms Sturgeon comes as the first minister is expected to announce plans for a second independence referendum when the PM triggers Article 50 for the UK to leave the EU later this month.

Mrs May claims it is "very clear" that people in Scotland do not want another vote on independence, but has so far not said whether she will grant permission for it if the Scottish Parliament calls for another referendum.

In her speech, she issued a strong defence of the Union: "We are four nations, but at heart we are one people.

"That solidarity is the essence of our United Kingdom and is the surest safeguard of its future."

She said the UK domestic market was worth four times more to Scottish firms, with the EU coming in third after the rest of the UK and the rest of the world as a market for Scottish goods.

"And yet the SNP propose Scottish independence, which would wrench Scotland out of its biggest market," she said.

Mrs May said was determined to achieve a Brexit deal which "works for all parts of the UK - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - and for the United Kingdom as a whole".

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

"There is no economic case for breaking up the United Kingdom, or of loosening the ties which bind us together."

Alex Salmond slammed the address as "arrogant and high-handed" and accused Mrs May's government of being "consumed with Brexit".

He said while Scotland had its full share of challenges in public services, they were "performing much better" than those in England.

He said if Mrs May were to reject Mrs Sturgeon's attempts to reach a Brexit compromise then a second Scottish independence referendum "becomes odds-on", adding: "And the odds are shortening by the day".

"The days of Scotland being lectured to by high-handed prime ministers at Westminster, these days are over," he said.

"Theresa May better become accustomed to that new reality very quickly or she'll be facing an independence referendum in Scotland," he added.

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