Prime Minister Theresa May will reportedly delay Nicola Sturgeon's hopes of a second Scottish referendum on independence until 2023.

The Conservative leader has already shot down Sturgeon's call for a referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 once, stating that "now is not the time", but May is expected to land that aspiration a further blow.

Speaking at the Conservative Spring Forum in Cardiff on Friday (17 March) amid a flurry of fall-outs, May will fight her case to keep the Union together.

"We are four nations, but at heart we are one people," May will say, according to a speech leaked to the Telegraph. "And I will always fight to strengthen and sustain this precious, precious Union."

"The Union is more than just a constitutional artefact," she will add.

"It is a union between all of our citizens, whoever we are and wherever we're from.

"So our plan for Britain will put strengthening and sustaining that Union at its heart."

Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party have so far reacted furiously to any attempts to delay the referendum bid and May's comments are likely to draw further criticism.

However, by pushing the date of the referendum beyond 2021 – the date of the next Scottish elections – the prime minister is hoping that appetite for a second referendum dies down.

It is a political gamble that balances on the SNP losing public support over their domestic policies, but that is by no means guaranteed.

The last time a Conservative leader took a political gamble on the crux of public opinion changing, Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Officially, the Tories argue it would be "unfair" for the Scottish people to "vote blind" in a Scottish independence referendum, until it is clear what the outcome of Brexit will look like.

At the Cardiff conference, May will say all four states need to strengthen their bond to ensure that the UK gets the best deal possible out of Brexit.

"The coming negotiations with the EU will be vital for everyone in the United Kingdom," she will say.

"It is essential that we get the right deal, and that all of our efforts and energies as a country and focused on that outcome.

"We need to do so united, as one United Kingdom, all pulling together to get the best outcome. That is what we have always done when faced with challenges. We have pulled together as one and succeeded together."