AN independent Scotland would provide an “escape route” from Brexit, Ian Blackford has underlined as SNP figures step up the case for leaving the Union.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday on her talks with opposition parties following her humiliating defeat on the withdrawal deal last week, the SNP’s Westminster leader argued people north of the Border had an alternative to the political crisis.

“In Scotland, we have another choice ... We did not vote for Brexit. We will not be dragged out of Europe by a Tory Government we did not vote for. We might not be able to save the UK, but we can save Scotland,” he said.

“We have an escape route from the chaos of Brexit, an independent Scotland. Scottish independence will result in our country being a destination in Europe, a country at the heart of Europe while the rest of the UK turns inward, isolated from its European neighbours. Mr Speaker we want no part of it.”

Blackford is the latest politician on the Yes side to ramp up the case for independence and comes after the First Minister said she would announce her timetable on a second independence vote in weeks. On Sunday, her predecessor Alex Salmond said there was no better time than now for a new vote as Westminster was at its weakest, while SNP MP Angus MacNeil and former SNP MP George Kerevan have argued the First Minister should act swiftly. Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens MSP, has also called on the First Minister to call a second independence referendum however Brexit unfolds.

May rejected calls for a second EU referendum, saying such vote would “strengthen the hand of those who wish to break up the UK”. She did not give a reason for her statement, but it could be argued if she agreed to a second EU referendum, it would weaken her opposition to a second independence referendum. The PM also promised to take a more “flexible, open and inclusive” approach to involving Parliament and the devolved nations in negotiating a future relationship with the EU as she seeks to revive her withdrawal agreement.

Sturgeon expressed scepticism about May’s remarks, tweeting: “Fair to say we’ve had empty and undelivered promises like this for two and half years now – will be interested to hear what’s going to be different now, but experience tells me to be very sceptical.”

May said she would conduct further talks this week on the backstop to find an arrangement to take back to Brussels that meets obligations to the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland “in a way that can command the greatest possible support in the House”. She also offered a guarantee that workers’ rights and environmental safeguards would not be eroded as a result of Brexit. And she scrapped the £65 fee for EU nationals wishing to remaining in the UK with “settled status”. But she also refused to take a “no deal” Brexit off the table, saying the only way to do this was either to agree a deal or to revoke the Article 50 withdrawal process, which she was not willing to do. May dismissed reports she was considering rewriting the Good Friday Agreement to get around the issue following a report she was considering doing so.

Meanwhile, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said he received assurances the EU remains “firmly supportive” of the withdrawal agreement including its guarantees of no hard border.

Poland’s foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz signalled a different approach: “If Ireland asked the EU to amend the agreement with the British on the backstop so that it would apply temporarily – let’s say five years – the matter would be solved.”