Prime Minister Theresa May has called on her fellow Conservatives to continue “loudly and clearly” putting the case for the “precious Union” of the UK.
During a speech to the Scottish Tory conference in Glasgow she said “we are four nations, but at heart one people”.
Mrs May had earlier criticised the SNP-led government at Holyrood for having tunnel vision over a second Scottish independence referendum.
The PM insisted that “logic and facts” were on the side of the UK.
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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has maintained that a second referendum was “highly likely” because of Brexit.
Voters in Scotland backed remaining in the EU by 62% to 38%. The UK as a whole voted to leave by 52% to 48%.
On the issue of Brexit, Mrs May told the conference that she was “determined” to ensure that “we leave the EU as one United Kingdom and prosper outside the EU as one United Kingdom”.
‘Feeble and incompetent’
She began her speech with a scathing attack on Labour in Scotland.
Mrs May said: “For too long a feeble and incompetent Scottish Labour opposition did nothing to scrutinise the SNP for their failures.
“An SNP government interested only in stoking-up endless constitutional grievance and furthering their obsession with independence, at the expense of Scottish public services like the NHS and education, was given a free pass by Labour.”
The address had a strong pro-Union theme.
Mrs May said the the UK “we cherish” is not a thing of the past.
She added: “The Union I am determined to strengthen and sustain is one that works for working people across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
By BBC Scotland political reporter Philip Sim
This was very much a speech in defence of the Union.
There was comparatively little from Theresa May about Brexit, the other big constitutional matter of the day.
And even the brief discussion of domestic policy was couched in terms of how the SNP was “failing” due to its “obsession” with independence.
But after all, this was Mrs May’s first proper speech in Scotland as Prime Minister; she will want to give many more. As much as she would rather focus on the tricky task of disentangling the UK from the EU, she does not want to be the premier who presided over the breakup of two unions.
So everything from the steam engine to the Harry Potter books were trotted out in defence of the United Kingdom. Had the kitchen sink been invented by a Welshman living in Inverness, doubtless it too would have been pitched in.
Listening to the speech, you would almost think a referendum had already been called. Mrs May will be hoping that by coming out swinging for the Union, she can avoid having to give this speech again on the campaign trail.
Other things the speech touched on included:
- The “falling standards” of education in Scotland and the continued attainment gap. Mrs May said fewer young people from the poorest backgrounds made it to university in Scotland compared with the rest of the UK
- Praising Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson whom she said would stand up to the SNP establishment
- “Enduring” economic strengths of the UK linked to its integrated domestic market for businesses meaning “no barriers to trade within our borders”
- The importance of the national security of the Union in a “changing world”. Mrs May said: “The United Kingdom is a responsible member of the international community and Scotland makes a huge contribution to the UK’s global role.”
PM Theresa May makes case for ‘our precious Union’}