UK PM, Scottish nationalists trade CHARGES

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London: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday accused the Scottish National Party of having an “obsession within dependence” that had diverted its attention from its responsibilities in governing Scotland.
The SNP, which runs Scotland’s devolved government, was guilty of “neglect and mismanagement” of education, healthcare and agriculture, May told delegates to a Scottish conference of her ruling Conservative party.
“They think independence is the answer to every question,” May said, accusing the SNP of “tunnel vision.”
Angus Robertson, the SNP’s deputy leader, accused May of hypocrisy after she supported the campaign for Britain to remain in the EU, with its warning that Brexit would be disastrous, “but is now determined to pull us over the cliff edge of an economically catastrophic hard Brexit.”
“Theresa May is guilty of mind-boggling hypocrisy — it is her government’s obsession with a hard Brexit which is directly threatening Scottish jobs and livelihoods,” Robertson said.
In her speech, May promised to devolve more decisions to the Scottish government after Brexit, rejecting the SNP’s insistence that Scotland must retain the benefits of the EU single market.
“As I have made clear repeatedly, no decision currently taken by the Scottish parliament will be removed from them,” she said.
“When the SNP propose that decision-making should remain in Brussels, we will use the opportunity of Brexit to ensure that more decisions are devolved back into the hands of the Scottish people,” May said.
“We are four nations, but at heart we are one people,” she said, referring to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Robertson said the SNP had “a duty to stand up for Scotland and to have a plan to protect our vital national interests.” He said regional elections 10 months ago had given the Scottish government “a cast-iron democratic mandate” for a second referendum” if that is the route chosen to protect those interests.”
Roberston rejected May’s claim that there was no strong public support for another referendum, saying some polls had shown a majority favouring a “Brexit-related independence referendum.”
SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has published a plan to keep Scotland in the EU single market if, as May has promised, the British government leaves it as part of Brexit.
Sturgeon suggested this week that she will push for a second independence referendum if May insists on launching Brexit talks based on leaving the EU single market and without further consultation with Scotland.
If May refuses to compromise, a second referendum “wouldn’t simply be legitimate, it would arguably be a necessary way of giving the people of Scotland a say in our own future direction,” she said in a speech on Tuesday.
More than 60 per cent of voters in Scotland chose to stay in the EU in a referendum in June, while 52 per cent voted for Brexit across the United Kingdom. In the independence referendum in 2014, 55 per cent of voters opposed Scotland breaking away.
Meanwhile, the minister responsible for managing “Brexit” said on Friday that Britain will still formally trigger its departure from the European Union by the end of March.
David Davis’s comments, during a visit to Bratislava, came just two days after a vote by the House of Lords called that date into question.
When asked by journalists about the date Davis said “Yes”, the conservative government would be able to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon treaty by the end of this month.
— dpa/AFP