LONDON The Scottish National Party is treating politics as a game and obsessing over independence rather than focussing on improving public services in Scotland, British Prime Minister Theresa May will say on Friday.
Since last year's Brexit vote, SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly said she could push for a new independence referendum if the country - which voted to remain in the European Union while England and Wales voted to leave - is forced into a clean break with the bloc.
Scots voted against independence in 2014, but sources close to the Edinburgh administration told Reuters last week it is increasingly confident it can win a new referendum and is considering calling one next year.
May, who insists there should be no second independence referendum, will criticise the SNP, which governs Scotland from its devolved parliament, in an address to her Conservative Party's Scottish conference in Glasgow.
"Politics is not a game and the management of devolved public services in Scotland is too important to be neglected," she will say, according to advance extracts released by her office.
"People in Scotland deserve a first minister who is focused on their priorities – raising standards in education, taking care of the health service, reforming criminal justice, helping the economy prosper, improving people's lives."
"Just this week we have learned that the SNP government has delayed its planned education bill, such is their obsession with the single issue of independence," she will say.
Britain's Scotland minister David Mundell told Reuters in an interview that he was confident the government could seal a divorce deal with the EU that would win over the people of Scotland, but may never be able to please the SNP.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by John Stonestreet)