SNP divisions see hit to Scottish independence support, but party still set for May majority

Support for Scottish independence has dropped by four points in a month, a new poll has suggested, as internal divisions rip through the SNP.

The result comes as the incumbent party of government in Scotland remains set to return an overwhelming majority in the Holyrood elections planned to take place in May.

The poll, undertaken by Savanta ComRes by The Scotsman, interviewed 1,002 adults aged 16 or over online between February 4 and 9.

Support for independence has dropped below 50 per cent when don’t knows are included for the first time since December, with 47 per cent of Scots intending to vote Yes, 42 per cent voting No, and 10 per cent undecided.

Supporters of Scottish independence gather at the site of the battle of Bannockburn for an 'All Under One Banner' event. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

With don’t knows excluded, support for independence in a second referendum sits at 53 per cent, with No backed by 47 per cent of Scots.

Divisions within the SNP may be partly to blame for the drop in support, with a significant change in the number of Scots who say the party is divided.

In February, 42 per cent of Scots said the SNP was united, a drop of eight points when compared with January and five points below December’s figures.

A total of 45 per cent also said the SNP was divided, up by six points when compared with January and eight points when compared to December.

Divisions within the SNP could be hurting support for independence

However, Scottish Labour is also seen as divided by a similar proportion of voters (37 per cent), with only 20 per cent saying the leaderless party is united.

Despite these figures, the SNP is still set for an overwhelming majority at the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May.

Nicola Sturgeon’s party is set to be backed by 54 per cent of Scots on the constituency ballot, with 43 per cent backing the party in the regional list.

Such a performance would see the SNP return 71 MSPs and sit with a majority of 13.

The latest poll also shows a return to second place for the Scottish Conservatives, with their strongest performance on the constituency ballot since October last year.

A total of 23 per cent of Scots plan to back Douglas Ross’ party in their constituency, with 21 per cent backing the party on the regional list, which would see 24 MSPs elected, down seven from 2016.

Scottish Labour’s support remains comfortably around the 18 per cent on both lists – 16 per cent constituency, 18 per cent for the list – in a performance that would see 19 MSPs elected, down five from 2016.

Another strong performance for the Greens on 10 per cent for the list would see them return a record high 11 MSPs, up five from 2016. The Liberal Democrats are hovering around 6 per cent of the vote on both lists, which would see them return four MSPs, down one on 2016.

Chris Hopkins, associate director at Savanta ComRes, said the divisions within the SNP were likely to be linked to the ongoing Alex Salmond inquiry.

He said: “Our latest Holyrood poll for the Scotsman has some interesting changes from last month, most notably in the proportions saying the SNP ‘is divided’ rising by six points and, simultaneously, ‘is united’ dropping by eight points.

"These figures naturally have coincided with the ongoing Salmond inquiry and, while there appears to be very little direct impact on the SNP in terms of the Holyrood voting intention, we do see a four point drop in the indyref2 voting intention, although Yes still lead by six points.

“The main beneficiaries in the Holyrood VI are the Scottish Conservatives, up four points in the constituency vote and five points in the list, and while the Conservatives are unlikely to threaten the SNP’s dominance, on these numbers it’s likely that they’ll re-establish themselves as Scotland’s second party over the leaderless Labour.

"An increase in the favourability of Boris Johnson and the UK Government in general may well be contributing to the Scottish Conservative’s improved showing if an election were tomorrow.”

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