New British prime minister travels to Scotland on first trip

LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is willing to listen to proposals from Scottish leaders about Scotland’s future relationship with the European Union.

The new prime minister spoke in Edinburgh after meeting with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, an outspoken advocate of Scottish independence.

“I want to get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom out of our negotiations for the UK leaving the EU, but I’m willing to listen to options,” May said after the meeting.

Sturgeon said she welcomed the prime minister’s willingness to consider Scotland’s goals.

She said she had received assurances that the British government will be “open and flexible” in future discussions regarding Scotland and the EU. Sturgeon is seeking various ways for Scotland to remain in the EU even if other parts of Britain withdraw.

May’s decision to make her first official trip as prime minister a visit to Scotland was an indication of the high priority she is placing on keeping Scotland within the United Kingdom despite differing views over Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Scotland voted to stay in, but Britain as a whole decided to leave in the June 23 referendum.

May, who took power Wednesday after David Cameron stepped down, discouraged talk of a future Scottish referendum on separating itself from the United Kingdom.

The question is important because Sturgeon has said a Scottish independence referendum is “highly likely” because Scottish voters want to remain in the EU, not leave.

“As far as I’m concerned the Scottish people had their vote, they voted in 2014, and a very clear message came through, both the United Kingdom and the Scottish Government said they would abide by that,” May said, citing the 2014 Scottish vote in favour of remaining part of the UK.

The prime minister said she and Sturgeon had discussed the timetable for implementing Article 50 of the EU treaty, which will start the process of taking Britain out of the 28-nation bloc.

“I’ve already said that I won’t be triggering Article 50 until I think that we have a U.K. approach and objectives,” May said.