What the latest polls tell us about Scottish independence

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Brexit may be preoccupying most political minds this festive season but in Scotland there is always another constitutional issue bubbling below the surface.

Two recent opinion polls have provided further insight into what the public is thinking on the matter of Scottish independence - a subject many presumed settled for a generation in September 2014 but still very much on the agenda for the Scottish Government.

Independence supporters gather in Glasgow Green in 2016 on the second anniversary of the referendum which delivered a 10 point win for the pro-UK campaign. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

Independence supporters gather in Glasgow Green in 2016 on the second anniversary of the referendum which delivered a 10 point win for the pro-UK campaign. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

The SNP has endured a difficult 2017 after losing a third of its MPs at June’s snap election, a result which forced Nicola Sturgeon to “reset” her plans for a second referendum.

But Nationalists are heartened that support for independence appears solid - even if it remains little changed from the 2014 result of 45 per cent in favour and 55 per cent against.

Unionists will however note there is little sign of protracted Brexit negotiations leading to No voters switching to Yes at any potential indyref2.

An online survey of 1,006 Scots by pollsters Survation published last weekend found support for independence at 46 per cent for and 54 per cent against.

The previous week, another poll by the same firm had Yes at 47 per cent and No at 53 per cent.

Green MSP Ross Greer tweeted it was “still hard to emphasise just how amazing it is that support for indy has held so firm since 2014 despite everything thrown at us”.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon ‘resets’ indyref2 plans

Professor John Curtice, senior research fellow at ScotCen Social Research, told The Scotsman that previous SNP expectations there would be a shift towards independence in the wake of the 2016 EU referendum had not been realised.

“Equally, no one should mistake the revival of the Conservative party in Scotland - which appears to have now stalled - as an interpretation that support for the union has increased,” he said. “It hasn’t.

“We are still in a situation in which the SNP cannot achieve its objective. There is no immediate prospect they would be able to win a referendum.

“But the idea has not died and the issue has not been put to bed.”

Prof Curtice continued: “At the moment, Nicola Sturgeon is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If she is looking for an opportunity to hold a referendum before 2021, it’s not in her interest to rush at it because she still doesn’t have a majority for independence.”

The UK’s political landscape is changing rapidly thanks to Brexit, but the polling expert said the decision to leave the EU has not significantly changed people’s minds on independence.

“We have learned a few things already,” added Prof Curtice. “Brexit on its own will not produce a change of attitudes. A few people have changed from Yes to No but there are others have gone in the oppositie direction.

“The second thing we know is that the public being upset with the UK Government’s handling of the process of Brexit, or the feeling they are not handling it terribly well, that on its own does not change attitudes towards Brexit.”