Theresa May today raised the prospect of an indefinite veto on a second independence referendum
The Prime Minister made her most impassioned defence of the Union yet as she and Ruth Davidson pledged to defend the “quiet majority” against Nicola Sturgeon’s party.
Attending the launch of the Scottish Conservative manifesto Mrs May vowed to “never stand by” and allow it to “drift apart” declaring only the Tories have “the strength and credibility to stand up to the Nationalists and defend our United Kingdom”.
Scottish Tory leader Ms Davidson, who has put opposition to separation at the heart of her general election campaign, also pledged to put the country “back at the heart of the Union” savaging the SNP’s decade in power and taking aim at a “weakened” Labour party.
The event in Edinburgh came after Mrs May vowed to block another referendum until the “Brexit process has played out” and there is clear evidence of “public consent” for one.
But today she twice refused to be drawn on a definition of “public consent” signalling a new Conservative government after June 8 could attempt to prevent one for an indeterminate period.
Ms Davidson and Scots Secretary David Mundell also would not spell out a “definitive set of criteria”.
Ms Sturgeon has already requested a Section 30 order from the UK Government which would allow her to hold another referendum as early as next year.
The Prime Minister made her most impassioned defence of the Union yet
This followed a vote at Holyrood in which the SNP and Greens backed breaking up the UK, with the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems rejecting it.
one question only – who can lead us through Brexit
But Mrs May has already said “now is not the time” and received a rapturous response from activists as she declared Britons are “one people” at heart.
Urging Scots to back the party on June 8 the Prime Minister described a “stronger Union” as a “personal priority”.
Mrs May stressed the election was defined by “one question, and one question only – who can lead us through Brexit and get a deal that works for the whole of UK?”.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson
She said: “A vote for any other party is a vote to weaken our Union, to weaken our negotiating hand in Europe and to put out future prosperity and security at risk.
“As long as I am Prime Minister, I will never stand by and let our Union drift apart.”
She also warned Jeremy Corbyn’s statement that another referendum would be “absolutely fine” showed he is “too weak” to protect the Union.
Mrs May also lambasted the SNP saying it had let the country’s youth down with its “tunnel-vision obsession with independence” and pledged a “Unionist government at the service of ordinary, working families”.
Ms Davidson used the launch to make a direct plea to disillusioned Labour voters and argued the Tories were “back in the centre ground of Scottish politics”.
She said they had the “ideas and plan” to turn “our faltering education system” around, to “champion” the fair work agenda and to “invest” in the next generation of family homes.
She also urged voters pledged to put “Scotland back at the heart of the Union” and hold Ms Sturgeon to her promise the 2014 referendum was a “once in a generation event”.
In a direct message to the SNP leader she added: “The Prime Minister says she’s a bloody difficult women. We’ll, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
The event came as YouGov survey for The Times newspaper found support for independence was unchanged from the 2014 poll, at 45 per cent Yes and 55 per cent No.
It has previously been thought Tories could push another vote back until after the next Holyrood elections in 2021 or entirety of the next UK Parliament until 2022.
They have not outline what “public consent” means though it could include include polling data over a sustained period which shows clear evidence that a majority of Scots back another vote.
Challenged on the issue Mrs May said: “Talking about a second independence referendum at this time is trying to pull us apart, just at the very time that as a nation, as the United Kingdom, we should be pulling together.”
Ms Davidson later added: “Nicola Sturgeon wanted to tie this to a date, she wanted this to be in the next 18 months.
“We’re saying that it is not about that, it’s about twin principles.
Ms Sturgeon has already requested a Section 30 order from the UK Government
“The principle is you cannot ask people to make a decision about the constitutional future of our country when you don’t know what that future looks like.
“You don’t know what Brexit looks like, how it plays out, and you don’t know what independence looks like because they haven’t outlined that either.
“We’ve seen time and time again that there is no public consent for it, people don’t want to be dragged back there.
“This isn’t about timings, dates, parliaments, whatever, this is about the principle.
“The best example we have is back in 2011/12 where we had every member of the Scottish Parliament voting for it because we all recognised that there was a mandate for it to happen, it had 92 per cent support across the country, so there was public and parliamentary/political consent there.
“We need something a lot more like what we had in 2011/12 before I think the UK Government should give its consent.”
Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell said: “We’re not setting a definitive set of criteria – what we’re saying is that public consent has to be apparent.
Asked to define this, he added: “We’re not getting into that.”
SNP deputy leader Angus Roberston said: “Theresa May flew into Edinburgh today to deliver one simple message to the people of Scotland – get back in your box.
“This carbon copy manifesto confirms beyond doubt that Tory MPs from Scotland will simply rubber-stamp Theresa May’s plans and endorse the damage she is determined to do to households and our economy.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “It is the Tories’ reckless Brexit gamble that has given the SNP the excuse it has been looking for to try to force another divisive independence referendum.
“Rather than fix the problems they have created in our country, the Conservatives are intent on continuing to divide our country and increase the risk of a second independence referendum.”