MAY AND STURGEON’S BITTER CORDIAL
Sturgeon holds ‘constructive’ talks with May .. then warns they’re still miles apart
NICOLA STURGEON had a “constructive” and “cordial” meeting with Theresa May last night – before repeating threats to block the Prime Minister’s Brexit plans.
The First Minister said she was “hopeful” of a breakthrough in the deadlock over whether powers returning from Brussels should be devolved straight to Holyrood or rest in Westminster after the UK leaves the EU.
But she insisted the Scottish Government would not back the Tories’ Brexit plans as they stand.
Emerging from a 30-minute meeting with May at No10, Sturgeon said: “I made very clear, as the Scottish Government have done consistently, that the Withdrawal Bill as it stands would not be acceptable and we’d 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.”
Sturgeon 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 want 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.”
The talks came as the EU Withdrawal Bill returned to the Commons yesterday to begin its line-by-line scrutiny ahead of crucial votes.
Both the Scottish and Welsh governments continue to refuse consent for the Bill unless Westminster surrender on a “power grab” of EU responsibilities and devolve them directly to Edinburgh and Cardiff.
Sturgeon also rowed back on SNP MP Tommy Sheppard’s warning in the Commons on Monday that the party would press ahead with IndyRef2 if there was no agreement over the powers and a hard Brexit loomed.
She said: “He was articulating the long-standing position of the Scottish Government. We have a mandate for that this session of the Scottish Parliament but I have been very clear we will take no further decision on the timing of any referendum until other aspects of Brexit are clear.”
Sturgeon said there was a warmer atmosphere at yesterday’s one-to-one with May, having described previous encounters with the PM as meeting someone reading from a script.
The SNP leader said: “That was a better meeting than some meetings we had previously – it was cordial, it was constructive.
“We were both able to set out quite frankly our positions.
“That doesn’t mean agreement will follow but perhaps it provides conditions to reach agreement in the weeks ahead.”
Downing Street said May told Sturgeon that “it remains her priority to provide certainty to businesses and people both in Scotland and across the country, as well as protecting our UK internal market”.
A spokesman added: “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 two leaders also discussed procedures being put in place after the sexual harassment allegations that have plagued Westminster and Holyrood.
Sturgeon said: “While having robust procedures in place, what is important is that the underlying culture of sexual harassment has to change – and that’s what we all hope will come out of the experiences of the last few weeks.”
FACING REPORTERS Sturgeon after meeting at No10
WARMER ATMOSPHERE Between May and Sturgeon