NICOLA Sturgeon has hinted she may call a second independence referendum by the end of March if she does not get a positive response from the Prime Minister about her proposals to keep Scotland in the single market in a special Brexit deal that would also see more powers come to Holyrood.

The First Minister said the “next few weeks” would be “absolutely crucial” when it comes to her judging whether the country’s voice is going to be heard in the process to leave the EU.

Speaking after talks with Theresa May in Cardiff at the Joint Ministerial Committee on the EU negotiations, the First Minister said she “remained to be convinced” her government’s proposals, submitted to Theresa May in December, were being taken seriously.

“In terms of me getting a sense of whether Scotland is going to be listened to at all, that period between now and triggering of Article 50 is absolutely crucial,” she said.

“The next few weeks are not going to resolve every issue of Brexit, but in terms of me being able to judge whether Scotland’s voice is going to be heard at all in this process ... the next few weeks are very important.”

Asked if such a timescale could see her announce another vote on independence by March, she added: “I’ll do what needs to be done to protect Scotland’s position. We are running out of time for this process. It can’t go on indefinitely and it won’t go on indefinitely. This is one of the last key opportunities for me to make clear to the Prime Minister that I have to see some movement on her part, and over the next few weeks she has got the opportunity to demonstrate whether that movement is going to be forthcoming.”

May has said she intends to trigger Article 50 by the end of March and begin the two-year process of negotiations to leave the EU.

The Scottish Government drew up proposals in December to keep the whole of the UK in the single market or, failing that, to allow Scotland to stay in it if the rest of the UK leaves.

Sturgeon believes her proposals reflect the result of the EU referendum in Scotland, where 62 per cent of people backed remaining in the bloc.

But yesterday she said she needs to see “tangible evidence” that UK ministers will take forward the Scottish Government’s proposals for a differentiated arrangement on European single market membership and a review of the devolution settlement.

After the talks, Scottish Secretary David Mundell said “inter-governmental discussions” on proposals brought forward by Scotland would be intensified.

“The question is not about can there be differentiation (for Scotland), the question is whether Scotland would benefit from differentiation, and that’s what really has got to be at the heart of these intense discussions,” he said. “Is it necessary to have a separate deal for Scotland, is the wish for a separate deal for Scotland driven by ideology or is it really based on economic fact and Scotland’s future needs? That is what we need to have a full and frank discussion about in the weeks ahead.”

Leaders in Wales and Northern Ireland also pressed May for a greater role in the Brexit negotiations. A spokesman for Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said the positions of the UK Government and the Welsh administration were “not identical but not irreconcilable at this stage”.

It has also published its own proposals for the Brexit process, with demands for full single market access.

Sinn Fein’s health minister and new Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said: “I told Prime Minister May that the government at Westminster should respect the vote of the people in the north and that we should be designated special status within the EU. It is regrettable that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) continue to stand with the Tory party on Brexit against the democratically expressed wishes of the cross-community majority in the north who voted to remain, and against the best interest of our economy, public services and powersharing institutions.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster, who was Northern Ireland’s first minister until recently, was also at the talks.

May previously said the devolved administrations would not be given a decisive role in the process of leaving the EU.

She left the Cardiff meeting bound for Dublin for talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Kenny has called for the current “seamless border” between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to be maintained post-Brexit.