Theresa May heading to Scotland next week as relations with Nicola Sturgeon sink to new nadir

Theresa May is planning a trip to Scotland next week
Theresa May is planning a trip to Scotland next week Credit: Getty

Theresa May is preparing for a possible showdown next week with Nicola Sturgeon over a second independence referendum after relations between their two governments sunk to a new nadir.

The Telegraph understands the Prime Minister will visit Scotland early next week as part of a promise to consult all the devolved administrations ahead of the triggering of Article 50.

Although Mrs May held talks with Carwyn Jones, the Welsh First Minister, during a visit to Swansea, UK Government sources said that until recently it was “not inevitable” that she would meet Ms Sturgeon in person.

However, they said it was now likely that the First Minister would be contacted with the offer of talks. Relations were already at breaking point after Ms Sturgeon last week attempted to ambush the Prime Minister with her demand of a second independence referendum.

Downing Street was given no prior notice of the announcement, which was disclosed by the Telegraph. Mrs May then infuriated the First Minister by rejecting another independence vote until Brexit has bedded in.

In her latest attack on Monday, Ms Sturgeon hit out at Mrs May for failing to inform her about the date for the triggering of Article 50 before it was announced to the media.

The First Minister also tabled a motion at the Scottish Parliament asking for the go-ahead for talks with the UK Government over a second referendum and warned the Prime Minister her opposition will become “democratically indefensible” when she wins MSPs’ approval.

They will debate the move on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon before holding a vote. A combination of SNP and Green MSPs are expected to vote it through, triggering an official demand from Ms Sturgeon to Mrs May for another independence vote.

Theresa May talks to media after signing of the Swansea Bay City Region deal Credit: EPA

The Prime Minister said she had discussed the Article 50 notification with Mr Jones during her Swansea visit and dismissed criticism she had not kept the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations up to date.  

She said: "We have been talking with the Welsh Government for the past few months and with the other devolved administrations about the process, about the timetable. I have always said it would be before the end of March and we will continue talking to them."

John Lamont, the Scottish Conservative chief whip, said: "It is only a week since Nicola Sturgeon announced her plans for an unwanted divisive second referendum out of the blue with no prior notice to anyone. As usual with the SNP, it is a case of double standards."

But a spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said: "The fact the UK Government failed to properly and fully inform all of the devolved administrations on the plans for triggering Article 50 speaks volumes - and totally exposes as empty rhetoric Westminster's language about equal partnership."

Mike Russell, the SNP’s Brexit Minister, sarcastically claimed that Tory ministers "forgot" to inform him of the date and said he only found out when it was reported by the BBC.

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, warned the Holyrood vote would still mark the start of another independence campaign by the nationalists and argued that instead “we should be coming together as a country” as Article 50 is triggered.