THE First Minister has said Theresa May doesn't want an independence referendum because she is afraid she would lose it.

Nicola Sturgeon made her comments ahead of a meeting later this afternoon with the Prime Minister, who earlier claimed in the Commons people in Scotland did not want a new referendum on the issue.

But in a statement Sturgeon shot back arguing May was "running scared" of voters in Scotland.

"Theresa May fears she would lose an independence referendum and is clearly running scared of the verdict of the Scottish people – who must be sick and tired of being told what the Prime Minister wants," she said. “Frankly, what Scotland needs is much more important than what the Prime Minister wants.

"On a daily basis, Brexit is illustrating this fundamental point – Scotland needs the power to take our own decisions. That’s the only way to stop Tory ideologues driving us to disaster and Westminster governments imposing polices we didn’t vote for."

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She added: "The mandate to give the people of Scotland a choice over their future is cast-iron. A majority of MSPs and Scottish MPs returned at the last two general elections support holding an independence referendum in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves. The SNP believe that the people of Scotland should be in charge of their own future – not live at the whim and diktat of a hardline, inflexible Tory unionist cabal.”

The FM's statement followed a question in the Commons to the PM from Scottish Tory MP Stephen Kerr over the prospect of a second independence referendum.

He described the UK as the "most successful political union that the world has ever known" as he spoke at Prime Minister's Questions.

He asked: "Does the Prime Minister agree with me that when Nicola Sturgeon demands a second independence referendum, only four years after we had the last one, that the UK Government should side with the majority of the people of Scotland and firmly tell her, no?"

The PM said that the first Scottish independence referendum was "legal, fair and decisive" and that "people clearly voted for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom".

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Replying May said: "He is absolutely right. As he points out, Scotland held a referendum in 2014 -it was legal, it was fair, it was decisive and the people clearly voted for Scotland to remain part of the UK.

"But more than that, at the last general election the people of Scotland again sent a very clear message that they do not want a second divisive referendum. But the SNP sadly are out of touch with the people of Scotland and they haven't yet heard that message.The last thing we want is a second independence referendum – the UK should be pulling together not being driven apart."

Replying to the claims the SNP were out of touch Sturgeon immediately tweeted: "It could be argued that it takes a staggering lack of self-awareness to accuse others of being out of touch, when it is you who is ploughing on with a Brexit policy that is opposed by the vast majority of the Scottish people."

The First Minister has pledged to set out her views on the timing of a possible second independence referendum in a "matter of weeks".

Speaking earlier today she said "the sooner Scotland is independent the better for all of us".

She argued: "I think it is essential, given the catastrophe that Scotland faces – to our economy, to our society, to living standards, to prospects for the next generation, to our reputation in the world - that the option of independence must be open to people in Scotland. When people in Scotland have the ability to choose independence, I believe that the country will opt to be an independent country."

She also said she will use her latest talks with the Prime Minister to demand a second European referendum and for the Article 50 deadline to be extended to allow for this.

She said: "The time has come for the Brexit clock to be stopped through a formal extension of Article 50 to allow a second referendum on EU membership to be held."