Annual survey shows 'record levels' of support for Scottish independence

However, a separate opinion poll shows a majority of Scottish voters remain in favour of staying in the UK

Annual survey shows 'record levels' of support for Scottish independence

A general view of an 'I Love Scotland' sign and Saltire on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh. Picture by: Jane Barlow/PA Wire/PA Images

Two polls have painted somewhat conflicting pictures about the appetite for Scottish independence.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday announced her intention to seek approval to hold a second vote in late 2018 or early 2019.

The announcement sparked a public war of words between Ms Sturgeon and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Ms Sturgeon highlighted the challenges surrounding Brexit as a key motivation for a second referendum, saying the Scottish government's efforts to secure a compromise with the British government had been met with a "brick wall of intransigence". 

Responding to the Scottish First Minister's remarks yesterday, Mrs May said: "The tunnel vision that the [Scottish National Party] has shown today is deeply regrettable. It sets Scotland on a course for more uncertainty and division."

The results of one annual survey - which questioned 1,237 people between July 2016 and December 2016 - shows support for Scottish independence is at its highest ever.

In a question about attitudes towards how Scotland should be governed, the ScotCen research group found 46% of the Scottish public would favour a split from the UK - a record level for the annual poll.

42% of respondents indicated they would prefer a devolved parliament - as is the current situation - while 8% said they would prefer no parliament.

"EU is potentially a divisive issue"

The support for independence compares to the 39% recorded in 2015, and 33% in 2014 (the year of the first independence referendum). The 2014 referendum was defeated by 55.3% to 44.7%.

In an analysis of the latest survey results, researchers observe: "The 2014 independence referendum resulted in a significant increase in support for the proposition that Scotland should leave the UK, leaving the country close to being evenly divided on whether that proposition should be pursued or not."

However, they also note: "The EU is potentially a divisive issue for the nationalist movement, while the commitment of many voters in Scotland to remain in the EU does not appear to be especially strong."

62% of Scottish voters voted to remain in the EU, but the ScotCen poll suggests Scotland has become more sceptical about the union.

Meanwhile, a separate YouGov survey for The Times suggests the majority of Scottish voters - 57% when 'don't knows' are excluded - would prefer to stay part of the union.

The remaining 43% are in favour of independence. 

Polls since the initial referendum have shown fluctuating levels of support for and against independence, with a majority showing more support for remaining in the UK. Support for independence increased in a number of polls conducted in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote.