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Theresa May: SNP 'divisive and obsessive' over second independence referendum

Theresa May has accused the SNP of being "divisive and obsessive" nationalists as the feud between the Prime Minister and the Scottish Government over a second independence referendum intensified.

Mrs May accused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her party of being in a "muddle" about their plans and warned that breaking up the UK would be "bad for us all".

Her intervention, at the Conservative spring forum in Cardiff, came as SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson insisted there was "no doubt" that a second referendum would take place - even though Mrs May has ruled out a vote on independence before Brexit has been finalised.

Downing Street dismissed the suggestion that the SNP could hold a legal referendum without the PM's approval between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, the timetable set out by Ms Sturgeon.

The countdown to Brexit will begin during the next two weeks when Mrs May triggers Article 50, the formal mechanism for leaving the European Union, and she acknowledged the process could be "uncertain at times".

Mrs May said: "A t such moments - great national moments that define the character of a nation - we have a choice.

"We can look forward with optimism and hope. Or give in to the politics of fear and despair.

"I choose to believe in Britain and that our best days lie ahead.

"Because while the road before us may be uncertain at times, I believe - with the British people - that it leads towards a brighter future for our nation's children and grandchildren."

The Prime Minister accused the SNP of "tunnel vision" and seeking to exploit the vote to leave the European Union.

"The fact that more Scottish voters backed Scotland staying in the UK in 2014 than supported the UK staying in the EU in 2016, and that almost half a million independence supporters actually backed Brexit last year, seems to count for nothing.

"It is now clear that using Brexit as the pretext to engineer a second independence referendum has been the SNP's sole objective ever since last June.

"But it would be bad for Scotland, bad for the United Kingdom, and bad for us all."

The Brexit negotiations would be "vital" for every citizen, business and community and required all parts of the UK working together, she said.

"It is essential that we get the right deal, and that all of our efforts and energies as a country are focused on that outcome.

"We can only get that deal if we are united, as one United Kingdom, all pulling together to get the best outcome."

She hit out at the " divisive and obsessive nationalisms" of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, and mocked Ms Sturgeon's party over its approach to EU membership.

"They are happy to see power rest in Brussels. But if those powers come back to London, they want them given to Edinburgh, so that they can try to give them back to Brussels.

"And now they apparently say that an independent Scotland would no longer seek to become a member of the EU after a vote for separation. It is muddle on muddle."

Earlier, Mr Robertson set out the potential for a constitutional crisis if Mrs May blocked a fresh independence ballot.

If Holyrood on Wednesday backs Ms Sturgeon's bid for a fresh ballot when the terms of the UK's Brexit deal are known, it would be "undemocratic and totally unacceptable" for this to be denied by Westminster, he said.

At his party's spring conference in Aberdeen, Mr Robertson said: "The Tories' argument is not about process, it is about their desperate desire to prevent anyone having the chance to reject the hard-right Brexit that they are so wedded to.

"The truth is, it should not be for either Theresa May or the Scottish Government to decide Scotland's future - that choice belongs to the Parliament and the people of Scotland and it is one this party will never, ever shy away from."

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