Nicola Sturgeon has launched an attack on the Prime Minister as the row over plans for a fresh referendum on Scottish independence became more bitter.
The Scottish First Minister issued a sharp response to speculation that Theresa May would block her from holding a public vote until after the 2021 Holyrood elections, suggesting that the Prime Minister did not have a mandate.
Ms Sturgeon’s reaction came after Spain suggested Scotland would be at the “back of the queue” to join the European Union if it achieves independence.
The Scottish First Minister’s bombshell announcement on Monday overshadowed the House of Lords vote which finally cleared the way for the Prime Minister to start the formal Brexit process.
The move drew a furious response from Mrs May who accused the SNP of “playing politics with the future of our country” with a vote that would only create “more uncertainty and division”.
Her comments were seen as an indication that she will not allow the referendum to go ahead until after the Brexit process is complete - which is expected to be in the spring of 2019.
Some reports have suggested that permission could be conditional on the SNP gaining an absolute majority in the 2021 Scottish elections.
Ms Sturgeon shot back at the Prime Minister by highlighting the 2015 general election results and pointing out Mrs May took the keys to Number 10 without an election, or even completing a Tory leadership contest.
On Twitter she said: “A quick reminder: Tory vote in GE2015 - 36.9% SNP constituency vote in SP2016 - 46.5%.
“Trading mandates does not put PM on strong ground.
“In addition, I was elected as FM on a clear manifesto commitment re #scotref. The PM is not yet elected by anyone.”
But her plans for Scottish independence suffered a setback as Madrid’s foreign minister Alfonso Dastis played down the prospect of the country being fast-tracked into the EU.
According to Europa Press, Mr Dastis told reporters in Peru that an independent Scotland “can’t just stay in the EU”.
Any prospective application to the EU can be vetoed by any member and Spain is nervous about its own internal separatist movements.
The European Commission’s deputy chief spokesman Alexander Winterstein refused to be drawn on whether Scotland could inherit the UK’s membership of the EU without leaving the bloc.
“This is a question that is as interesting as it is hypothetical,” he told the commission’s daily briefing for journalists in Brussels.
He added: “This negotiation process will be one between the European Union and Her Majesty’s Government. We respect the internal constitutional arrangements of all our member states.”