Scottish independence: Majority of Scots against Nicola Sturgeon's October 2023 referendum date

Nicola Sturgeon’s planned date for a second independence referendum does not have the backing of a majority of Scots, a new poll has suggested, in an early blow to the freshly-announced strategy.

Asked whether there should be a referendum held in October 2023, 53 per cent of Scots said there should not be a poll, with only 40 per cent backing the SNP leader’s timeline of choice.

The First Minister announced she wishes to hold a vote on Scotland’s constitutional future on October 19 next year, provided the Supreme Court backs the legality of the referendum.

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If not, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP would fight the next general election, slated for 2024, on the single issue of whether Scotland should be independent.

The poll, undertaken by Savanta ComRes for The Scotsman, interviewed 1,029 Scottish adults aged 16 or over online between June 23 and 28.

The survey also underlines the deep divide in Scottish politics on constitutional terms, with most of the major questions around independence strategy broadly matching voters’ views on the future constitutional relationship of Scotland with the United Kingdom.

It also continues the trend of Scotland being split down the middle on independence, with no overall movement of public opinion since the last time the question was asked.

Nicola Sturgeon's planned referendum date does not have the backing of the majority of Scots. Picture: PA

Support for independence is at 44 per cent, with those stating they would vote no in a future independence referendum at 46 per cent, both down 1 per cent from the last poll in May.

A further 10 per cent of voters are undecided, up three percentage points.

However, with undecideds removed, popular support for independence remains unchanged, with 49 per cent stating they would vote Yes and 51 per cent stating they would vote No.

Scots are also not wholly convinced the case for independence in stronger in 2022 than it was in 2014, according to the survey.

In total, 40 per cent state the case is stronger, while 32 per cent argue it is weaker and 9 per cent stated they did not know.

On the timing of a potential vote, opinion is split down constitutional lines, but is more uniform among No voters.

In total, 80 per cent of Yes voters want a referendum on the First Minister’s timeline, with just 4 per cent of pro-union voters agreeing.

In contrast, 93 per cent of No voters are against a referendum, with 17 per cent of pro-independence voters agreeing.

Voters were also asked whether they supported a referendum going ahead without a Section 30 order.

This is what would likely happen if the Supreme Court signed off Ms Sturgeon’s plans for a vote as legal.

More Scots would oppose than support such a move, with 41 per cent opposing, 37 per cent supporting and 15 per cent having no opinion on such a strategy.

This is again split on constitutional lines, with 74 per cent of Yes voters backing the move, while 80 per cent of No voters oppose the approach.

The prospect of a boycott of the vote is slim, however, with two-thirds (67 per cent) of Scots stating they would vote in a referendum held without a Section 30 order.

More than half (57 per cent) of No voters would vote in such a poll, with 90 per cent of Yes voters stating they would take part.

A total of 17 per cent of voters would not vote, including a quarter of No voters and 4 per cent of Yes voters.

Around 15 per cent state they do not know whether they would take part, including 18 per cent of No voters versus 6 per cent of Yes voters.

There has been some commentary on the prospect of a Labour government in Westminster and the potential for a change in governing party making a significant difference to how people would vote in regards to independence.

However, the polling suggests that any effect would likely be balanced out overall, with 17 per cent of Scots stating a Labour government would make them more likely to vote Yes and 16 per cent saying it would make them more likely to vote No.

A further 61 per cent said it would make no difference and 6 per cent said they did not know.

This potential lack of impact is noticeable in the breakdown for parties, with 15 per cent of Labour voters saying a Labour government would make them more likely to vote Yes versus 27 per cent saying it would make them more likely to vote No.

The SNP’s supporters would split in a similar way, with 26 per cent saying they would be more likely to vote Yes and 10 per cent saying they would be more likely to vote No.

Just 13 per cent of existing Yes voters said they would be more convinced to vote No under a Labour government, with 6 per cent of No voters saying they would more likely back Yes at a referendum.

Chris Hopkins, associate director at Savanta ComRes, said the poll “only serves to underline the division within Scotland”.

He said: “Should Scotland be an independent country? The results are practically neck and neck.

"Support for a second independence referendum without a Section 30 is driven by those in the Yes camp; opposition comes almost wholly from the No camp.

"Four in five Yes voters say the case for independence is stronger now than in 2014, a majority of No voters say it’s weaker now.

"The battle lines that were drawn in 2014 are all-too familiar, and Nicola Sturgeon’s defiance to hold a referendum at almost any cost just deepens this divide.”

Mr Hopkins added: "But, if that’s the only path to independence and, given the progress the Yes camp made during the campaign in 2014, if she can get over the hurdle of being legally allowed to hold a second vote, only a fool would bet against her returning independence, regardless of the division it would sow.”

The SNP remain streets ahead in the polls for both the Holyrood and the Westminster elections.

In terms of the general election, this poll shows Ms Sturgeon would miss out on passing her 50 per cent goal for success in a ‘de-facto referendum’, with 46 per cent of Scots stating they would back her party.

Labour are comfortably in second place on 25 per cent, up seven points from the 2019 election, with the Conservatives on 18 per cent, down seven points.

The Liberal Democrats sit in fourth place on 8 per cent.

These figures are also matched exactly on the voting intentions for the Holyrood constituency ballot.

On the list, the SNP would secure 33 per cent of the vote, up two points from May.

They still hold a nine point lead over second-placed Labour on 24 per cent, up one, with the Conservatives on 20 per cent, up two points.

The Scottish Greens are polling at 13 per cent, down one point, with the Liberal Democrats on eight, down two.

Alex Salmond’s Alba party is on 2 per cent, down one.

The former first minister is, however, no longer the most unpopular politician in Scotland.

That crown has been passed to the Prime Minister, with Boris Johnson now clocking a net favourability rating of -62 per cent, down four from May and one point below Mr Salmond.

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

It's available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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