UK leaders' slanging match sets tone for long fight ahead

By Gordon Rayner

Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon at each other over Brexit. Illustration / Rod Emmerson
Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon at each other over Brexit. Illustration / Rod Emmerson

Theresa May's battle with Nicola Sturgeon for the future of the Union turned personal today as the two women traded barbs over Scottish independence.

The First Minister suggested she had a more solid mandate than the "unelected" Prime Minister, prompting the Conservatives to suggest Sturgeon had "gone the full Donald Trump".

Setting the tone for what is likely to be a long and bitter fight over "indyref2", Sturgeon appeared riled by suggestions on Twitter that she does not have a mandate for a referendum because she has no overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.

She tweeted: "A quick reminder: Tory vote in [general election] 2015 - 36.9 per cent. SNP constituency vote in [2016 Scottish election] - 46.5 per cent. Trading mandates does not put PM on strong ground."

Taking a swipe at the fact that May has not fought a general election and was unopposed in the party leadership contest, she added: "In addition, I was elected as FM on a clear manifesto commitment re #scotref.

The PM is not yet elected by anyone."

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader who is likely to play a key role for the Unionists in any future referendum, replied: "Responding to anonymous tittle-tattle by trading mandates over Twitter? Goodness. Someone's gone the full Donald Trump ... "

In the Commons, May used a question-and-answer session over her visit to the European Council last week to aim her own waspish comments at Sturgeon.

She said: "This is not a moment for playing political games. It is a moment to bring our country together to honour the will of the British people and to shape for them a better, brighter future and a better Britain."

She added: "The evidence in Scotland is that actually the majority of the Scottish people do not want a second independence referendum."

Asked whether she had come across support for an independent Scotland joining the EU on a visit to Brussels last week, May said: "I did not detect any such support".

The Prime Minister was answering questions in Parliament after making a statement on her visit to the European Council last week.

After being asked a question by Alex Salmond, the former leader of the SNP, she pointed out that Salmond had described the 2014 independence referendum as "a once-in-a-generation vote", adding: "It seems a generation now is less than three years".

- Daily Telegraph UK

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