Theresa May has been warned that denying Scots a vote between Brexit and independence will make the break-up of the UK “inevitable”, despite her claims that leaving the European Union will make Britain “more united”.
Speaking as Article 50 was triggered to formally start the departure process, Mrs May stressed that Holyrood and the other devolved governments should expect a “significant increase” in powers as a result of Brexit. She repeated her pledge that no powers currently devolved will be removed from the administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
But with the Scottish Parliament having voted by 69 to 59 in favour of a second independence referendum, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson told the Prime Minister of the impact it could have if Scots are denied such a vote.
Speaking in the Commons, he said: “The Prime Minister says that she thinks Brexit will bring unity to the United Kingdom, it will not. On this issue it is not a United Kingdom and the Prime Minister needs to respect the differences across the nations of the United Kingdom.
“If she does not, if she remains intransigent, and if she denies Scotland a choice on our future, she will make Scottish independence inevitable.”
In her Article 50 letter delivered to European Council President Donald Tusk, Mrs May stresses: “From the start and throughout the discussions, we will negotiate as one United Kingdom, taking due account of the specific interests of every nation and region of the UK as we do so.”
She added: “When it comes to the return of powers back to the United Kingdom, we will consult fully on which powers should reside in Westminster and which should be devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“But it is the expectation of the Government that the outcome of this process will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration.”
Mr Robertson told the PM that 62 per cent of Scots, and every local authority area north of the Border, had backed keeping Britain in the EU in June’s referendum. Mrs May responded: “My constituency voted to remain in the European Union.
“The point is that we are one United Kingdom and it was a vote of the whole United Kingdom.” She insisted that in the wake of the ballot most people wanted politicians to “respect that vote and get on with the job of delivering for everybody across the whole of the United Kingdom”.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Today, the PM will take the UK over a cliff with no idea of the landing place. Scotland didn’t vote for it and our voice has been ignored.”
Mr Robertson also accused Mrs May of having “broken her word” that an agreement would be put in place with devolved administrations before Brexit was triggered.