NICOLA Sturgeon has called on Theresa May to seize a spirit of compromise and meet the Scottish Government “half-way” to allow Scotland to stay in the European single market.

But while the First Minister warned the Prime Minister that she was “not bluffing” about holding a second independence referendum if a hard Brexit was realised, she indicated that a vote would not happen “within the timescale of Brexit” ie before spring 2019.

Ms Sturgeon’s political opponents accused her of seeking to use Brexit to whip up support for independence and sow division and discord; the FM, they argued, should concentrate instead on sorting out the problems in Scotland’s schools and hospitals.

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Read more: Flagship SNP scheme to twin schools to drive up standards 'shelved' after three years

Mrs May, meantime, appearing on Sky News, indicated that what she wanted was for Britain to have maximum access to the single market rather than membership, noting how she would not try to "keep bits of membership". She said Britain wanted to take back control of immigration and secure a "really good, ambitious trade deal" with the EU.

Earlier appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, the FM said the key issue now was about finding “compromise ground” on achieving practical solutions to overcome the difficulties of the complex issue of Brexit.

“If we are going to get into the practical discussion about how these things can be overcome, we first have to have a UK Government that’s going to meet the Scottish Government half-way to try to discuss that. I’m compromising. I’m prepared to compromise. I need to have a UK Government that’s prepared to do likewise.”

Ms Sturgeon said the issue of independence was “much bigger than the European Union” and argued that Scotland faced a fundamental question if the PM could not find what she believed was a sensible compromise and told Scots to “like it or lump it” on the issue of Brexit.

In such circumstances, she explained: “The question for Scotland – and it’s a much more fundamental question than the EU or Brexit – is are we happy with that; are we happy to have no voice in the UK, to simply have to accept the direction of travel that an increasingly right-wing UK Government wants to impose upon us?”

Read more: Flagship SNP scheme to twin schools to drive up standards 'shelved' after three years

Indeed, the SNP leader said it would be right for Scots, faced with the prospect of Tory rule from London for possibly the next 20 years, to be given the opportunity to have another vote on their future.

However, Ms Sturgeon suggested so-called “indyref2” might not happen for some time yet, saying the nation would “not have to have that decision within the timescale of Brexit”; as things stand, not until after spring 2019. Indeed, with a general election in 2020 and a Holyrood poll in 2021, then the earliest practical date for a second independence poll, taking into account the parliamentary processes, could be 2022.

At Holyrood, Ruth Davidson said the SNP once again was “trying desperately to use Brexit as a means of whipping up support for independence; they have failed”.

The Scottish Conservative leader urged the FM to “start acting in the interests of all Scots, not simply playing to her Nationalist base; that means ruling out another referendum to give Scottish business the certainty it needs, and to concentrate on clearing up her party’s own mess on education”.

Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader, branded Ms Sturgeon’s remarks “yet another attempt by the SNP to sow division and uncertainty at a time when the country needs to pull together more than ever”.

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, accused the SNP leader of being “all over the place on independence”.

Read more: Flagship SNP scheme to twin schools to drive up standards 'shelved' after three years

"The First Minister should get on with the day job: sorting out the NHS; education system and our police," he added.