Lord Ashcroft, the Tory peer and independent pollster, said focus groups in Edinburgh South West and Aberdeen South found that SNP supporters who voted for Brexit were being turned off by Nicola Sturgeon’s push for indyref2 over the UK’s EU exit.
Presenting his findings in Holyrood magazine, Lord Ashcroft claimed the “single biggest reason” the SNP was struggling to equal its landslide performance in 2015 was its focus on independence.
Scotland-wide opinion polling has put the SNP as much as nine points down on their performance two years ago, when the party won 50 per cent of the vote and 56 out of 59 MPs.
The focus groups spoke to two types of voters: those who said no to Scottish independence in 2015 and voted for Labour or the Liberal Democrats, and people who voted for the SNP in 2015 and backed Brexit last year.
“Many of these SNP leavers – who, according to our survey on the day of the EU referendum, constitute more than one in three SNP voters – saw complete consistency in their two referendum decisions,” Lord Ashcroft said.
He reported that pro-independence Brexit voter said: “Both votes were votes for something smaller, something more manageable. They were both a vote for more self-governance, on a smaller scale.”
“You’d rather run your own country. I’d rather be run by Westminster than be run by Brussels.”
Another said: “I can’t vote SNP, because of the simple reason that I voted to leave Europe. So why leave the UK to be run by Europe?”
Other Yes voters were reluctant to back Scottish independence again after Brexit because of the greater uncertainty, and the fact that it is less than three years since the last referendum.
“We can’t go on our own now, we’ve got nothing at the back of us,” one said, while another told the focus groups: “I voted yes and I cannot face another huge decision”.
Lord Ashcroft said some voters had been left with “the feeling that the independence agenda had led the [SNP] to neglect priorities at Holyrood that many voters felt were closer to home.”
One participant said: “It’s the fact that the SNP haven’t really delivered. They said a lot of things they would do, and they haven’t changed.”
However, Lord Ashcroft said he also found No voters in the 2014 referendum whose views on independence have since softened.
Both Aberdeen South and Edinburgh South West are key Conservative targets on 8 June.
Edinburgh South West Conservative candidate Miles Briggs said: “This study shows even SNP voters are getting sick of Nicola Sturgeon’s independence obsession. They’ve moved on from the referendum, and so should the First Minister.”