Meeting of leaders in Edinburgh
May: NO Scots deal on Europe, NO IndyRef2
Theresa May left Edinburgh today after telling First Minister Nicola Sturgeon there will be no second independence referendum on her watch, and insisting the Brexit issue would be handled on a UK-wide basis.
The two most powerful women in Britain met at Bute House, the First Minister’s residence, to discuss Britain’s future dealings with the European Union, but also set the tone for Anglo-Scottish relations.
After the meeting, the new Prime Minister said: “I’m willing to listen to options and I’ve been very clear with the first minister today that I want the Scottish government to be fully engaged in our discussion.
“I have already said that I won’t be triggering Article 50 [the mechanism enabling withdrawal] until I think that we have a UK approach and objectives for negotiations – I think it is important that we establish that before we trigger Article 50.”
On the question of a second referendum on Scottish independence, Mrs May said the 2014 vote was a “very clear message” about the preference for remaining part of the U.
“Both the United Kingdom government and the Scottish government said they would abide by that,” she said.
“We now have the challenge though as the United Kingdom, to ensure that we can get the best possible deal for the whole of the United Kingdom from the EU negotiations when the UK leaves the EU.
“I’m very clear that the government I lead will be for all parts of the United Kingdom and for all people.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “I was very pleased that Theresa May said that she was absolutely willing to consider any options that the Scottish government now bring forward to secure Scotland’s relationship with the European Union, that the process that now takes shape by the UK government will be open and flexible, and that the Scottish government will be fully involved in that.
“I have been very clear that we have to make sure that Scotland’s interests are protected and I want to examine every option of doing that.”
Mrs May launched her Premiership on Wednesday night with a firm commitment to the union, referring to the ‘precious bond’ that binds Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
She is also committed to delivering the Brexit decision and her new Chancellor has effectively ruled out any special deals for the nations of the UK and said it would be better for the UK as a whole to seek a deal.
In a statement from Downing Street ahead of the Bute House meeting she 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.”
But Mrs May’s decision to head north to Edinburgh within 24 hours of taking office suggested a need to reach some form of ‘arrangement’ with Scotland in order that it does not distract from negotiating a settlement between the UK and the EU.
Ms Sturgeon, who wants Scotland to retain access to the single market even if the rest of the UK does not, said she was hoping to build “a constructive working relationship” with the new Prime Minister.
“We both have a duty to the people we serve. The top issue will be the European Union and I am determined to protect Scotland’s interests,” she said.
She said a wide range of issues from business to the environment were at risk because of the Brexit decision.
“We have to agree if in this difficult time whether we can be open-mined about these options.”