While the Prime Minster declared on Thursday that “now is not the time” for a second vote on independence, the SNP’s deputy leader condemned the attitude of May and the Conservatives.
He accused the PM of “wagging her finger” and treating Scots like they “should shut up and sit on the naughty step” after she rebuffed Nicola Sturgeon’s proposals to hold a vote between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.
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Robertson told the SNP Spring Conference in Aberdeen: “Let there be no doubt, Scotland will have its referendum and the people of this country will have their choice ... they will not be denied their say.
“Just in case some people in Whitehall aren’t listening, Scotland’s referendum is going to happen, and no UK Prime Minister should dare to stand in the way of Scottish democracy.”
He said that if the PM “refuses” talks over the terms of a second independence referendum before the Brexit deal is complete, “she is effectively trying to block the people of Scotland having a choice over their future”.
Robertson said: “That would be a democratic outrage.
“If Scotland can be ignored on an issue as important as our membership of the EU and the single market, then it is clear that our voice and our interests can be ignored at any time and on any issue.
“So when the terms of Brexit are known – and not before – we will give the people the choice over the direction Scotland should take, before it is too late to change course.
“Before people make that choice we will set out the challenges and opportunities of independence. In particular we will set out how to secure our relationship with Europe, build a stronger economy, a fairer society, and forge a genuine partnership of equals across these islands.”
He added: “Well I’ve got news for you Prime Minister, your mask has slipped and the real face of Tory arrogance is there for all to see.”
With MSPs expected to next week back Sturgeon’s demand for a Section 30 order permitting Holyrood to hold a legally binding referendum, Robertson stressed the “big question” is whether May will “respect Scottish democracy”.
He said: “If the Scottish Parliament decides that there should be a referendum after the Brexit negotiations are concluded, but before Scotland is dragged out of the EU, will she respect that?
“Will she give a clear and unambiguous statement today that she will respect the wishes of Scotland’s national parliament?
“If she does not, this will be the proof that the Tories have returned to the bad old days of Thatcher’s Britain running roughshod over Scotland and we will not accept that.
“Nobody is proposing that there should be a referendum held right now. The Prime Minister knows that and everyone understands that.
“But if it’s only fair to be able to conclude Brexit negotiations before a referendum, then it’s only fair that the people should have their say in the months after that, before the UK leaves the EU.
“If it’s fair for other parliaments to have their say in that period, it’s only fair for Scottish voters to have their say at the same time.
“What would be unfair is to deny people in Scotland their choice. That would be undemocratic and totally unacceptable.”
In his speech to the conference, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay also hit out at the Tories for “telling Scotland what to do”.
Speaking about the Conservatives, he said: “They’ve spent centuries perfecting the craft of keeping people down and in their place. Scotland has been no exception.
“So we aren’t surprised that yesterday they told us no. No, you cannot have a choice. No matter that you voted to have that choice. The answer is no. Not at the time of your choosing.
“The arrogance is breathtaking. An unelected PM telling our elected First Minister what she can and can’t do. The sole Tory MP in Scotland telling the majority parties at Holyrood what they can and can’t do.
“A majority of MSPs support Scottish independence. And those MSPs carry a mandate to hold another referendum whether Westminster likes it or not.”