Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon meet ahead of Article 50

Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa MayImage copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May met at a hotel in Glasgow

The prime minister has met Scotland’s first minister in Glasgow as she prepares to formally trigger Article 50.

Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon held talks at a hotel during the prime minister’s trip to Scotland.

Downing Street insisted ahead of the meeting that independence would not be discussed.

The Scottish Parliament is expected to back Ms Sturgeon’s call for a second referendum on independence on Tuesday.

The first minister says a fresh vote is needed ahead of Brexit to allow the people of Scotland to choose which path to follow.

But speaking earlier on Tuesday, the prime minister said leaving the European Union will be an opportunity to strengthen the ties between the nations of the United Kingdom.

Mrs May, who will trigger Article 50 on Wednesday, told staff at the Department for International Development (DFID) in East Kilbride that she wanted Brexit to lead to a “more united nation”.

She pledged that leaving the EU would not mean the UK “stepping back from the world”, and insisted she was aiming to build “a new partnership with Europe” while taking the opportunity to build “a more global Britain”.

The prime minister added: “As Britain leaves the European Union, and we forge a new role for ourselves in the world, the strength and stability of our Union will become even more important.”

Media captionTheresa May: “When this great union of nations sets its mind to something and works together with determination, we are an unstoppable force.”

In an impassioned plea for the preservation of the UK, she said the nations of the United Kingdom were an “unstoppable force” when they acted together.

Mrs May – who did not take questions following her 10-minute speech, which focused largely on DFID’s international aid work – also said the UK was “a force for good, helping to build a better future for everyone”.

She added: “As we look to that future and as we face this great national moment together, I hope you will continue to play your part in the great national effort we need to build the stronger Britain, the fairer Britain, the more outward-looking Britain and the more united Britain that I am determined we should be once we emerge from this period of national change.”

Lack of consultation

The Scottish government has criticised what it argues is a lack of consultation from Westminster over Brexit, which it says has led to its proposals for keeping Scotland in the single market being ignored.

Mrs May insists that there have been “considerable discussions” with the Scottish government and the UK’s other devolved administrations as she seeks to get the best Brexit deal for the whole of the UK.

And she has said that there are areas where the UK and Scottish governments are in agreement, such as workers’ rights.

She has also said that “now is not the time” for an independence referendum, but has not ruled out one being held after the Brexit process is complete.

Mrs May was speaking as Labour outlined “six tests” that will need to be met in order for it to support any Brexit deal negotiated by the government.

Downing Street said that the talks between Mrs May and Ms Sturgeon were for issues surrounding the triggering of Article 50 – and not the possibility of a second independence referendum.

But Scottish government sources said ahead of the meeting that the talks could not just focus on Brexit.

Triggering Article 50 begins a two-year negotiation process to attempt to reach a deal before Britain officially leaves the EU in March 2019.

The government is also due to publish its Great Repeal Bill, giving powers to amend some EU laws, on Thursday.

‘No discussion’

Ahead of Mrs May’s visit, a spokesman for the Scottish government’s Brexit Minister, Michael Russell, said there had been “no discussion” with the Scottish government over what will be in the letter triggering departure from the EU.

He added that the Scottish government had not been consulted over whether Scotland’s interests will be represented, what role the Scottish government will play in negotiations, nor which powers the Tories intend to take for Westminster and which powers will be determined by Holyrood.

Mr Russell said there had also been no discussion over the the financial impacts of Brexit and “the consequences for jobs and the economy in Scotland”.

He added: “There are clearly a lot of areas where we hope the prime minister intends to provide answers.

“We believe it should be for the people of Scotland to decide their own future, which is why we will return to parliament on Tuesday to seek a mandate to begin discussions on a referendum that will put Scotland’s future in the people’s hands.”

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