Theresa May: There is 'no economic case' for breaking up UK

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says her government has hit a "brick wall of Tory intransigence" over Brexit

Theresa May: There is 'no economic case' for breaking up UK

Prime Minister Theresa May speaking during the annual Scottish Conservative conference. Picture by: Jane Barlow/PA Wire/PA Images

Theresa May has used a visit to Scotland to tell Nicola Sturgeon to stop playing politics with Brexit and also condemn the Scottish National Party's record in government on education.

In a speech at the Scottish Conservative conference in Glasgow, the British Prime Minister said "politics is not a game" and accused the SNP of neglecting schools and "twisting the truth to further their obsession with independence".

But the Scottish First Minister has already hit back, claiming her attempts to reach a Brexit compromise have been met by a "brick wall of Tory intransigence".

The latest clash between Mrs May and Ms Sturgeon comes as the SNP leader is expected to announce plans for a second independence referendum when the Mrs May triggers Article 50 for the UK to leave the EU later this month.

Mrs May claims it is "very clear" that people in Scotland do not want another vote on independence, but has so far not said whether she will grant permission for it if the Scottish Parliament calls for another referendum.

In her speech, she said: "My first visit as Prime Minister was here to Scotland. I wanted to make clear that strengthening and sustaining the bonds that unite us is a personal priority for me.

"I am confident about the future of our United Kingdom and optimistic about what we can achieve together as a country.

"There is no economic case for breaking up the United Kingdom, or of loosening the ties which bind us together."

But in an attack on public services, she said Scotland's schools are "outperformed in every category" by those in England, Northern Ireland, Estonia and Poland.

"As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I am just as concerned that young people in Dundee get a good start in life and receive the education they need to reach their full potential as I am about young people in Doncaster and Dartford," she said.

"People in Scotland deserve a First Minister who is focused on their priorities - raising standards in education, taking care of the health service, reforming criminal justice, helping the economy prosper, improving people's lives."

"The SNP's neglect and mismanagement of Scottish education has been a scandal."

"Politics isn't a game"

In an interview ahead of her speech, Mrs May said: "To me, politics isn't a game. Politics is about people's lives, it's about delivering on the issues that really matter to them on a day-to-day basis.

"I can't help but feel that the SNP has a tunnel vision about independence. Actually I think what people want is for the SNP government to get on with dealing with the issues they want to see addressed on a day-to-day basis.

"Issues like the state of the economy, reforming schools - education used to be such a great flagship for Scotland, but sadly in recent years we have seen that deteriorating."

Ahead of Mrs May's speech, Ms Sturgeon said: "The Scottish Government's approach since the EU referendum has been to offer compromise and to seek consensus at every turn. In return the UK Government's has so far been one of obstinacy and intransigence.

"Where we have spoken the language of consensus and co-operation, theirs has been the language of Westminster diktat.

"Where we have been prepared to offer a solution short of our ideal outcome, they have refused to seriously engage.

"And where we have offered compromise, we have been met by a brick wall of Tory intransigence."

She added: "The Prime Minister spoke last July of not triggering Article 50 until there was 'a UK approach and objectives' - but has subsequently proceeded towards the triggering by signalling a hard Brexit outside the single market without any agreement or significant consultation with Scotland or the other devolved governments.

"Her government has no mandate in Scotland, and no democratic basis to take us out of Europe and the single market against our will."