A former SNP leader has called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to put any plans for a second vote on Scottish independence on hold “indefinitely”.
Gordon Wilson made the call after a new opinion poll showed that most Scots did not want a second ballot on leaving the UK to be held in 2017.
The BMG poll for the Herald newspaper found that, when those who are unsure are excluded, 61.5 per cent were against holding a fresh vote in 2017, compared to 38.5 per cent who would support it.
Those who were against another vote this year included almost one-third of those who said they were SNP supporters.
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on a draft referendum bill after the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union (EU) while a majority in Scotland voted remain - a result which led Ms Sturgeon to warn another ballot on independence was “highly likely”
Excluding “don’t knows” the poll puts support for an independent Scotland at 45.5 per cent, almost identical to the result in 2014 when Scotland voted by 55 per cent to 45 per cent to remain in the UK.
A total of 1,002 Scots were surveyed for the research, which was carried out between December 9 and 13.
Mr Wilson, who was SNP leader from 1979 to 1990, said: “When the facts change, so should policy. The BMG poll today confirms that there is no appetite for an immediate Independence referendum.
“It is worrying for the SNP that a third of SNP voters also don’t want one - a figure close to the number who voted Leave.
“Indyref 2 should be shelved indefinitely until a better case is made.”
Instead Mr Wilson suggested SNP leaders “change tack”, adding: “Over the last two years since the 2014 referendum, there has been no attempt to build a case for independence.
“Where are the solutions on the currency and budget? Why has there been no attempt to explain how Scotland could be better off with full control of economic policy?”
He continued: “If Scotland had voted Yes in 2014, then the country’s expulsion from the EU by English voters could not have happened.
“This is the message that the SNP should be repeating throughout the land until it sinks home. Independence means taking control.”
He called for a “spearhead campaign” to focus on this in 2017 and the following years, but also said the SNP administration at Holyrood should “separate itself from the action”.
He said that “ministers should govern”and urged SNP depute leader Angus Robertson to “step forward with a long-term strategy” ahead of any future referendum.
An SNP spokeswoman said: “Our focus is on standing up for Scotland and protecting people from the disastrous impact of a hard Tory Brexit which would badly damage jobs and living standards.
“The Scottish Government has produced a detailed plan which would keep Scotland in the European Single Market even if the rest of the UK leaves and Theresa May should be given the opportunity to consider those proposals.
“But it can’t be right to sit back and accept everything this increasingly right-wing Tory Westminster government wants to do to Scotland no matter the cost to our economy, public services and living standards.”
Labour shadow Scottish secretary Dave Anderson cited the new poll as “further evidence that most Scots are opposed to the SNP’s latest attempt to divide our country, just as they were before Brexit”.
The English MP said: “The EU referendum result should not be used as a false mandate for another referendum on Scottish independence.
“Labour is firmly opposed to a second independence referendum. We are the only major party that supports what the majority of Scots want - a close relationship with our European neighbours, while protecting Scotland’s place in the UK.”
Meanwhile Green MSP Ross Greer said it was “good to see support for independence has stayed at the level two years of intense campaigning brought it to, and not declined as many predicted”.
But he said: “It’s just impossible to say with any certainty whether or not there will be another referendum soon. Until we know whether Westminster will consider the Scottish Government’s compromise proposals on Brexit, as well as what their own negotiating position will be, it’s anyone’s best guess.
“What is clear though, is that if Westminster does not compromise and proceeds to drag Scotland out of the EU, without compromise and against the express wishes of our electorate, a referendum on our own future will be absolutely necessary. An independent Scotland with its own seat at the European table is a more positive future than being trapped in hard Brexit Britain.”