NICOLA Sturgeon last night underlined the Scottish Government’s mandate for a second referendum as she spoke to journalists after leaving talks with the Prime Minister.

The First Minister told reporters outside 10 Downing Street that her government had a mandate for a new plebiscite in the course of the current Holyrood term, but said “no decisions would be made on timing until the terms of Brexit became clear”.

Speaking after the 45-minute meeting, she said she had told Theresa May the EU Withdrawal Bill was not acceptable to the Scottish Government in its current form but that she hoped there could be some agreement in the coming weeks.

The devolved administrations of both Scotland and Wales have branded the legislation – which began its committee stage in the House of Commons yesterday – a “power grab”, as it would return responsibilities in devolved areas such as agriculture from Brussels to London.

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The First Minister is refusing to put the bill forward for legislative consent at the Scottish Parliament unless changes are made to prevent what she has described as the undermining of the devolution settlement.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister told the First Minister that her priority was “to provide certainty to businesses and people both in Scotland and across the country, as well as protecting our UK internal market”.

Sturgeon said: “I made very clear, as the Scottish Government has done consistently, that the Withdrawal Bill as it stands would not be acceptable and we would not be able to recommend approval of that.

“That remains the position, but hopefully having had the opportunity to air the concerns that we have in more detail, we will be able to see progress in the weeks to come.”

She added: “While we didn’t reach agreement, I think we developed a better understanding of each other’s positions. I made clear that the Scottish Government wants to find agreement on the Withdrawal Bill. We oppose Brexit but we understand withdrawal legislation is necessary, so we want to find agreement.

“But I also made clear what our bottom lines are on that bill. Discussions will continue and hopefully we can reach some points of agreement in the weeks to come.”

A Downing Street spokesman said of the meeting: “They spoke about progress in agreeing principles on common frameworks at the recent Joint Ministerial Committee, and the Prime Minister reiterated that as powers are repatriated from Brussels back to Britain there will be a significant increase in the decision-making powers for the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations.

“The Prime Minister encouraged the Scottish Government to continue to work with counterparts to secure the best outcome for the people of Scotland and the whole of the UK.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Lesley Laird hit out at the First Minister for refusing to rule out a second independence referendum.