SUPPORT for independence has increased since Alex Salmond’s unprecedented victory in the Scottish election earlier this year, an exclusive poll reveals today.
The first Scotland on Sunday poll on independence since the SNP’s triumph suggests that support for breaking up the United Kingdom has risen to 34 per cent, an increase of six percentage points on the last survey, which was carried out on the eve of the May election.
The result represents a bounce back to where polls had the party earlier this year and at the end of last year before the final eve-of-election poll, which saw support dip to 28 per cent.
But the poll reveals that the proportion of voters in favour of independence is still well short of the majority required to win a referendum and reveals the SNP has yet to achieve the breakthrough in public opinion it needs to achieve its ultimate goal.
Today’s YouGov survey of 1,075 adults reveals a surge in pro-independence views since the last comparable poll, conducted on 29 April. Of those asked, 52 per cent said they would vote against independence, 12 per cent said they did not know which way they would vote and a further 3per cent said they did not intend to vote.
The SNP welcomed the “excellent” figures and claimed that support would continue to rise as the Nationalists step up their referendum campaign, which they launched last week at their Inverness conference.
But their opponents took comfort from the fact that backing for independence had not exceeded the 2011 high of 35 per cent, which was recorded during the election campaign. When compared with previous polls, today’s survey provides some evidence to suggest that support for independence has risen slightly over the past three years.
In October 2008, support for independence was recorded at 31 per cent. Polling in 2009 suggested that support for independence was, on average, about 29 per cent. The average figure remained around the 29 per cent mark in 2010 before rising to 32.5 this year.
Other findings in the poll found that a greater proportion of males (41 per cent) supported independence than the 27 per cent of females.
In addition, independence was most popular in the 40-59 age group with 37 per cent of supporting the SNP’s cause. They were closely followed by young voters (18-24-years) with 36 per cent supporting independence. Thirty per cent of 25-39-year-olds would vote yes for independence and 31 per cent of those over 60.
When it came to social class, 36 per cent of the working class (C2DE) were for independence compared with 31 per cent of the middle-classes (ABC1).
On the poll’s main finding, the SNP’s campaigns director Angus Robertson said: “These are excellent figures, showing a growing number of people aspire to a better future for Scotland by taking responsibility for our own affairs.
“We are only at the start of the referendum campaign, yet support for independence has already increased by six points since May’s election – that is significant progress as voters realise the positive benefits independence can bring to their future and to Scotland’s future.
“As the campaign steps up, support for independence will continue to rise. Coming in the week after SNP conference where we launched our referendum campaign it’s clear that the SNP and our vision for independence is one shared with people across the country.”
The poll showed that there is still a sizeable proportion of voters who are prepared to vote for the SNP, but are not convinced by independence.
Of those who voted SNP at the Holyrood election, 19 per cent said they would vote “no” in an referendum on independence. But from a Nationalist point of view that figure is an improvement on previous polls where upwards of one quarter of those questioned indicated they were prepared to vote for the SNP but would tick the “no” box in a referendum.
Labour claimed that the SNP had failed to translate electoral success into support for independence.
The shadow Scottish secretary, Margaret Curran, said: “For the first time in 20 years, the SNP held a conference where separation was the only word and it has had no impact on the fundamental views of the vast majority of Scots who support Scotland being part of the UK.
“The SNP have not been able to articulate the problem to which separation is the answer, because our nations are stronger together, stronger united and stronger in the good times as well as the uncertain.”
Salmond has indicated that he would be relaxed about a referendum that poses two questions.
One would be on breaking away from the UK completely, while the other would be on granting Holyrood greater powers – “devo-max” – that would fall short of outright independence.