Conservatives putting Irish peace at risk - Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, smiles during a live election debate for Scottish political party leaders in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused the ruling Conservatives on Thursday of jeopardising the Irish peace process by seeking support to govern from a Northern Irish party.

Sturgeon, whose Scottish National Party lost seats to the Scottish Conservatives in an election last week, has long complained about May’s approach to governing, saying the prime minister ignored Scotland’s demands in her Brexit plan.

May is due to start crucial negotiations to leave the European Union next week. But following last week’s failed election gamble, she has lost her parliamentary majority and is trying to reach an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party.

“(The Conservatives) are now putting the country in hock to the DUP,” Sturgeon said.

“In the space of less than a year they have jeopardised the economic security of the UK, running the risk of making the UK a laughing stock internationally and, as if that wasn’t bad enough, putting the Irish peace process at risk into the bargain,” she said, in a rowdy session at Scotland’s devolved parliament.

Former Prime Minister John Major warned this week that May’s plan to govern with the support of the DUP risked convincing ‘hard men’ on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland to return to violence.

A deal with the DUP would increase the influence of pro-British unionists who have struggled for years with Irish nationalists who want Northern Ireland to join a united Ireland.

Sturgeon also declined to say whether or not she would back down on her push to hold another Scottish independence referendum, which appeared to have eroded support for her party in last week’s national election.

She has said she will reflect on the issue. Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom in 2014.

Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; Editing by Keith Weir