CARDIFF, Britain, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish National Party (SNP) were on Friday accused by British Prime Minister Theresa May of using Brexit as a pretext to engineer a second independence referendum for Scotland.
Addressing the Conservative Party's Spring Conference in the Welsh capital, May continued her war of words after the first minister of Scotland said she planned a new referendum to vote on a break-up of Britain.
In her keynote speech, May did not refer directly to Sturgeon, but she did launch an attack on the SNP. "The precious bond between four nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is more than just a constitutional artifact. It is a union between all of our citizens. Our plan for Britain will put strengthening and sustaining that union at its heart," said May.
She described the Conservatives as the party of the new center-ground of British politics, rejecting the extremes of Labour's socialist left, UKIP's libertarian right, and the "divisive and obsessive nationalisms" of Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales) and the SNP (Scottish Nationalist Party).
"We have seen that tunnel vision on display again this week. The SNP argue we should break up the UK because we are leaving the EU, but three years ago they campaigned for a result that would have taken Scotland out of the EU altogether," she said.
"Brexit would be bad for Scotland, bad for the United Kingdom, and bad for us all. The coming negotiations with the EU will be vital for everyone in the United Kingdom," May stated.
Even so, May insisted that Britain's best days lie ahead, after the country has left the EU. She said Britain stands on the threshold of one of the most significant moments the country has known for many years.
"During the next two weeks, we will trigger Article 50 and begin the negotiations to secure Britain's departure from the European Union. 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," May told hundreds of party members gathered for the conference.
May described Brexit as a moment of opportunity to shape a brighter future for Britain and "ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be."
May added that while the road before the country may be uncertain at times, she believes, with the British people, that it leads towards a brighter future for the nation's children and grandchildren.
"That brighter future won't just happen. The stronger, fairer country we want won't just emerge. It will take effort and focus, discipline and hard work," said May.
May said the referendum result was not just a vote to leave the EU, it was also an instruction to change the way the country works forever.
It was a call to change the balance of Britain, to make the UK a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few, added May.
"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," she said.
In Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon said she would be "up for" a discussion with May about the timing of a new independence referendum. The Scottish Parliament is expected next week to back Sturgeon's call for a new vote. But May has ruled out a referendum while Brexit negotiations with Brussels are taking place.