NICOLA Sturgeon has said Theresa May doesn’t want an independence referendum because she is afraid she would lose it.

The First Minister’s comments came after a meeting with the Prime Minister, who told the Commons earlier yesterday that people in Scotland did not want a new vote. Shortly afterwards, Sturgeon spoke to ITV Border, arguing May was “running scared”.

“I think the Prime Minister fears that she would lose another Scottish independence referendum, so she’s running scared of the verdict of the people,” she said.

“It’s probably the same reason why she doesn’t want another EU referendum. People who are confident in their arguments don’t run away from the verdict of the people.”

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She added:“I think people in Scotland are probably getting sick and tired of hearing what the Prime Minister wants. What the Prime Minister wants is not the most important thing here. What Scotland needs is what matters most.

Brexit is demonstrating on a daily basis, right now, that Scotland needs the ability to take our own decisions so that we’re not dragged down the wrong path by Tory ideologues and we don’t constantly face the prospect of having policies imposed by Westminster governments that we didn’t vote for.

“So I do think what Scotland needs is far more important than what the Prime Minister might want for her own narrow political interests.”

The First Minister also criticised May for prioritising winning the support of the DUP and “hardline Brexiteers” over compromise with others, and argued May was ignoring the concerns of the people of Scotland.

The FM’s intervention signalled a stepping up of her push for independence and followed a question to the PM from Scottish Tory MP Stephen Kerr over the prospect of a second independence vote.

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 National:

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.”

Sturgeon 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 second independence referendum in a “matter of weeks”.

Her comments yesterday took place amid a shift in the debate over when a new independence referendum should be held.

At the weekend Alex Salmond argued there is “not likely to be a better time to force the issue” in the wake of May’s historic Brexit deal defeat last week, while the Scottish Greens also insisted a new vote should take place before 2021.

In a Tweet, SNP MP Joanna Cherry, said yesterday there should be a vote before the end of a Brexit transition period, currently due to end in December 2020.