Theresa May has mocked the SNP’s stance on Europe as “a muddle on a muddle” as she deepened the war of words between Downing Street and the Scottish Government.
The Prime Minister accused the SNP of being “divisive and obsessive” nationalists and said a second referendum on Scottish independence would be “bad for us all”.
Mrs May also suggested the SNP were guilty of “the politics of fear and despair” as the UK prepares to begin Brexit negotiations within the next two weeks.
Her comments at the Conservative Spring Forum in Cardiff come less than 24 hours after she ruled out granting the Scottish Parliament the powers it needs to hold a second referendum until after the UK leaves the EU.
The countdown to Brexit will begin during the next two weeks when Mrs May triggers Article 50, the formal mechanism for leaving the European Union, and she acknowledged the process could be “uncertain at times”.
Mrs May said: “At such moments - great national moments that define the character of a nation - we have a choice.
“We can look forward with optimism and hope. Or give in to the politics of fear and despair.
“I choose to believe in Britain and that our best days lie ahead.
“Because while the road before us may be uncertain at times, I believe - with the British people - that it leads towards a brighter future for our nation’s children and grandchildren.”
The Prime Minister accused the SNP of “tunnel vision” and seeking to exploit the vote to leave the European Union.
“The fact that more Scottish voters backed Scotland staying in the UK in 2014 than supported the UK staying in the EU in 2016, and that almost half a million independence supporters actually backed Brexit last year, seems to count for nothing.
“It is now clear that using Brexit as the pretext to engineer a second independence referendum has been the SNP’s sole objective ever since last June.
“But it would be bad for Scotland, bad for the United Kingdom, and bad for us all.”
The Brexit negotiations would be “vital” for every citizen, business and community and required all parts of the UK working together, she said.
“It is essential that we get the right deal, and that all of our efforts and energies as a country are focused on that outcome.
“We can only get that deal if we are united, as one United Kingdom, all pulling together to get the best outcome.”
She hit out at the “divisive and obsessive nationalisms” of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, and mocked Ms Sturgeon’s party over its approach to EU membership.
“They are happy to see power rest in Brussels. But if those powers come back to London, they want them given to Edinburgh, so that they can try to give them back to Brussels.
“And now they apparently say that an independent Scotland would no longer seek to become a member of the EU after a vote for separation. It is muddle on muddle.”