The Prime Minister has rejected Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second independence referendum, saying “now is not the time”.
Theresa May said today that holding another vote would make it “more difficult” to get the “right deal” for the UK during Brexit negotiations.
She added: “My message is clear – now is not the time.
“I think we should be working to get the right deal for Scotland and the UK with our future partnership with the European Union.
“It would be unfair to the people of Scotland that they would be being asked to make a crucial decision without the information they need to make that decision”.
Mrs May refused to be drawn on whether she was ruling out a vote on Scottish independence at some point in the future.
It comes after Nicola Sturgeon sought permission from the Scottish Parliament on Monday to call for a second referendum.
The First Minister said the vote could be held in the autumn of 2018 or in the spring of 2019.
However, Mrs May said it would be “unfair” to hold a referendum until the UK’s future with the EU became clear.
She said her focus was to seek the best deal possible for the whole of the UK, including Scotland, in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations with the EU.
She added: “So when the SNP government say that now is not the time to start talking about a second independence referendum, I say that just at this point all of our energies should be focused on our negotiations with the European Union about our future relationship.
“To be talking about an independence referendum would I think make it more difficult for us top be able to get the right deal for Scotland and the right deal for the UK”.
Taking to Twitter to respond, the First Minister said: “The Scottish Government is not proposing a referendum now… but when the terms of Brexit are clear and before it is too late to choose an alternative path.
“A Section 30 order [the legal mechanism that allows for an independence vote to be called] must be discussed and agreed now to enable that timescale.
“If the Tories refuse to do so, they would effectively be blocking Scotland’s right to choose when the Brexit terms (are) clear.
“This would be undemocratic given the Scottish Government’s clear mandate and also proof positive that the Tories fear the verdict of the Scottish people.”
A spokesman for Nicola Sturgeon said that any attempt to block another referendum would be “completely and utterly democratically unacceptable.”
He added: “This is a 21st century democracy where elections, mandates and views are meant to count for something.”
The spokesman claimed that a hard-line approach from the UK Government would be “disastrous” for a pro-Union campaign but confirmed the Scottish Government would be prepared to wait until 2021 to hold another vote.