A THIRD of English people want to be independent from Scotland, according to a new poll.
The ICM poll found 31 per cent of people south of the Border wanted to split up the UK, with 60 per cent keen to keep the Union with Scotland intact and 9 per cent saying they did not know.
With support for Scottish independence also enjoying the backing of about a third of the population, the survey does show that levels of support for independence are roughly the same north and south of the Border.
But while the poll reveals stronger support for English independence than many experts had anticipated, it also shows that the status quo - maintaining the Union - still commands the support of the majority of Britons, both Scottish and English.
The result of the poll, for a Sunday newspaper, was welcomed by Scottish nationalists. Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, said: "It's time both countries were self-governing, having responsibility for their own resources and passing their own laws while working together in a new partnership of equals."
He added: "Gone will be a surly lodger, and in its place a new and very friendly neighbour.
"Clearly this is the future. This growing support shows that unionist politicians are on their way out and the argument for independence and self-respect is on its way in."
But Labour and the Conservatives assessed the results in a different way.
A spokesman for Douglas Alexander, the Scottish Secretary, stressed that 60 per cent of respondents wanted to retain the Union.
He said: "This confirms the majority of people in Scotland and south of the Border are in favour of remaining within the United Kingdom.
"It shows people throughout the UK recognise that we are stronger together and weaker apart."
David Mundell, Scotland's one Tory MP and shadow Scottish Secretary, said: "I am pleased that the majority of people want to remain part of the UK, but this shows it is now incumbent on those of us who support the Union to make the case for the Union from the English point of view."
The poll was conducted in the wake of a series of public spats over Scotland's relationship with England. The Tories have demanded that Scottish MPs be barred from voting on English domestic matters; other MPs, from both main parties, have hit out at what they see as an unfair Treasury subsidy for Scotland; and Jack McConnell infuriated some south of the Border by backing England's opponents in the World Cup.
While the poll suggests a strong base level of support for English independence from Scotland, it also shows that the SNP has a long way to go before it can persuade people on both sides of the Border that the Union should end.