Scotland remains evenly split over whether to become an independent country, according to a new poll for Sky News.
Scotland would vote by 51% to 49% in favour of independence, once those who say they don’t know and non-voters are excluded, putting the result within the margin of error. It is the first “yes” lead since the end of April.
These are the results of an exclusive Opinium poll for Sky News held on the eve of the Scottish National Party annual conference.
This suggests attitudes to independence have remained broadly unchanged since shortly before the Scottish elections in May, which saw the SNP fall just short of an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.
The last Opinium poll had support for independence on a dead heat, 50-50. They have since formed a formal electoral arrangement with the Green Party to secure an overall majority.
The 51% support is well short of the sustained 60% poll lead which Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack recently suggested would be needed to trigger another independence referendum.
Mr Jack’s comments were nevertheless helpful to nationalists since since it suggests that parts of the British government are willing to think through circumstances in which another vote is possible, rather than automatically ruling one out.
Furthermore, 13% of people who voted “no” in the last referendum would now vote “yes”, while there are just 8% going the other way. In addition, “no” voters are now more likely to be undecided than “yes” voters (10% to 6%).
The public are also evenly split, within the margin of error, on whether there should be a referendum in the next five years – with 46% saying there should and 44% saying there should not.
This is slightly higher than late April, although the question has changed slightly.
Meanwhile, more voters approve than disapprove of the SNP coalition with the Scottish Greens. Around 44% told Opinium that it was good, 33% bad and 23% said they did not know. The Scottish Greens will support the push for another independence referendum in this Parliament.
Chris Curtis, pollster from Opinium, said that if there was the enthusiasm to make a referendum happen, the unionist cause might find defending the status quo difficult.
“While there may not be a burning appetite for another referendum on Scottish independence, the data shows why the nationalists would stand a better chance of winning second time around,” he told Sky News.
The impact of the Brexit referendum arguments are making the case for Scottish independence easier, Mr Curtis said.
“Firstly, Brexit has muddied the economic arguments that swung the results in 2014.
“Back then, the median voter thought independence would damage their personal finances and damage the Scottish economy. Now, the median voter thinks that it wouldn’t make much difference to either.
“The next “no” campaign, if there is one, is also going to find it difficult to find a messenger who can appeal to swing voters.
“Of the 13 Scottish politicians we tested, Nicola Sturgeon was the only one trusted by voters to talk about Scottish Independence – 55% say they trusted what she had to say, compared to just 25% who trust the prime minister.”
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