EXCLUSIVE: Theresa May urges Scots to use local elections to reject independence
Prime Minister Theresa May - credit: PA
Prime Minister Theresa May has urged voters across Scotland to use the upcoming local elections to express their opposition to Scottish independence.
Writing exclusively for Holyrood magazine ahead of the Scottish Conservative conference, the PM frames the local elections, held on 4 May, on constitutional grounds.
May also rejects SNP claims that Scotland’s vote to remain in the European Union has been ignored in Downing Street’s approach to Brexit negotiations, writing that “every voter had an equal say and the collective answer was final”.
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Referring to the UK as a “partnership of equal citizens”, the PM writes: “When we take decisions on a UK-basis, whether in a referendum or a general election, every individual has an equal voice. So in June last year, when the UK as a whole was asked if we should leave or remain in the European Union, every voter had an equal say and the collective answer was final.”
The Scottish Parliament voted by 90 to 34 to oppose the UK government starting the Brexit process, while the Scottish Government has called for a special deal in which Scotland retains access to the single market.
Speaking after the debate, Scottish Brexit minister Mike Russell said: “So far, the UK government has not offered a single compromise of its own. In fact, it has offered nothing. Neither formal reaction to our proposals, nor formal rejection of them.”
But May rejected claims Scotland’s vote to remain had been ignored.
She writes: “The Joint Ministerial Committee has allowed the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to make direct representations to the UK Government as we develop our thinking and their input has been beneficial.
“Despite what you might read in the newspapers, it is clear that there is considerable common ground between us. We all want the freest possible trade in goods and services between the UK and the EU’s member states. This should give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within European markets, and let European businesses do the same here. This will be delivered through a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU.”
Introducing the party conference, May writes: “We will also be looking forward to the local elections in May, when voters across Scotland will have the chance to send a clear message to the SNP that they do not want a second independence referendum, by voting Scottish Conservative and Unionist on 4 May.”
In her previous column for Holyrood, the PM argued the SNP needs to accept its share of responsibility for the Brexit vote, arguing it had been driven by dissatisfaction with the political establishment and pledging her government will focus on “getting a better deal for people in the UK”.
May said: “The EU referendum also exposed an underlying sense that people felt they have been ignored by politicians, at Westminster and Holyrood, for too long.”
She added: “That feeling is as strong in Scotland as it is anywhere else in the UK, and after nine years as the establishment party in Scotland, the SNP needs to accept its share of responsibility.”