Why new Scottish independence polling should worry Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP

Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP face a tricky couple of years, and new poll results published in today's The Scotsman will add to the party's worries.

Despite the popularity of the Nationalists and Holyrood’s pro-independence majority, Scotland remains a deeply divided country.

Research by Savanta ComRes found support for No at 52 per cent and Yes at 48 per cent, once undecideds are removed.

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This is a slight increase for the unionist side, with polling in January seeing a 50/50 split.

Scotland's constitutional stalemate is going nowhere fast.
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Mostly, however, it’s just yet more evidence that our constitutional stalemate is going nowhere fast.

The most eye-catching results lie elsewhere.

Our poll suggests a majority (59 per cent) of Scots think discussions over when a second referendum should take place should stop due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with just 29 per cent saying they should continue.

A sizeable 43 per cent of SNP voters believe they should halt, while 47 per cent disagree.

Asked the same question about the cost-of-living crisis, 52 per cent of Scots said discussions should stop because of it, with 38 per cent saying they should continue.

The results tie in with previous polling showing a lack of support for a referendum being held in the next two years, which is ostensibly Ms Sturgeon’s favoured timetable.

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There appears to be a significant section of the Scottish public who back independence, but don’t want a referendum in the immediate future. This could prove significant.

The fact is, the world feels like a very uncertain place at the moment.

The war in Ukraine is first and foremost a humanitarian crisis, but it has also reshaped UK politics. Spiralling living costs are a source of increasing concern.

Those already convinced of the case for independence might point to the action Scotland could take if it was in control of its own affairs.

But those less sure or firmly on the fence – and who hold the key to any future referendum result – might feel differently.

They could see a second referendum as piling uncertainty on top of uncertainty.

In truth, few people in Scottish politics believe a referendum will take place next year.

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Apart from anything else, the UK Government is unlikely to agree to it and that causes all kinds of practical problems, whether or not a court battle looms.

The SNP’s leadership are also very aware of the hurdles that stand in their way. They don’t just want to hold another vote; they want to win it and gain independence.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford recently hinted at a possible delay to the indyref2 timetable.

While many think the party was looking for an excuse to put it off, there is no doubt the war has changed everything.

Our poll suggests plenty of SNP supporters don’t think the time is right to be discussing the matter.

The path to another referendum could well rely on demonstrating public pressure to such an extent that it becomes impossible for UK ministers to ignore.

If that is the plan, today’s polling indicates there is a long way to go, and wider events will have an impact.

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The challenge for Ms Sturgeon’s party will be maintaining the momentum and ensuring any delay doesn’t become indefinite.

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