Theresa May has arrived at the First Minister of Scotland’s official residence in Edinburgh for talks with Nicola Sturgeon.
The Prime Minister’s visit – less than 48 hours after taking office – is aimed at showing her commitment to preserving the United Kingdom following the vote to leave the European Union.
She was greeted at Bute House by Ms Sturgeon, with the women shaking hands and stopping on the steps for photographers.
The talks between the two leaders come after Mrs May completed a major shake-up of her Cabinet, and as the UK responds to the terror attack on Nice in which at least 84 people were killed.
The Prime Minister stressed her desire to keep the UK together in the wake of the EU referendum result immediately after she took office in Downing Street.
But Mrs Sturgeon has said a second referendum on Scottish independence is now “highly likely” because voters north of the border rejected Brexit in last month’s vote.
Scotland voted 62% to 38% to remain in the EU on June 23.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister will use the meeting to prove London is “fully engaging with the Scottish Government in the forthcoming negotiations about the UK’s exit from the European Union”.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mrs May said: “I believe with all my heart in the United Kingdom – the precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“This visit to Scotland is my first as Prime Minister and I’m coming here to show my commitment to preserving this special union that has endured for centuries.
“And I want to say something else to the people of Scotland too: the Government I lead will always be on your side. Every decision we take, every policy we take forward, we will stand up for you and your family – not the rich, the mighty or the powerful.
“That’s because I believe in a union, not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens. Whether it’s reforming the economy or strengthening our society, we are going to build a better Britain and a nation that works for everyone – not just the privileged few.”
Also speaking ahead of the meeting, Ms Sturgeon told STV: “My position is that I respect how people in other parts of the UK voted, I hope the Prime Minister will respect how people in Scotland voted.
“My job is to seek to protect Scotland’s interests and I’ve said I’m open to seeking to do that through the UK process. If I’m going to be able to do that then she (Mrs May) has to make the process open and flexible.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Secretary David Mundell has insisted there is “no mood” in Scotland for a second independence referendum.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “What people in Scotland don’t want is this toxic and divisive issue of a second Scottish independence referendum being put on the table and blurring the issues around the EU negotiations.
“People in Scotland are in no mood for a second independence referendum and business in particular in Scotland isn’t in a mood to have the issue of Scottish independence blurring the very, very important negotiations to get Scotland the best possible deal from the EU negotiations.”