SCOTTISH independence has failed to win the backing of more than a third of Scots, with support for leaving the UK lower than before the SNP won power, a newly-published survey has found.
Only 32 per cent of voters in Scotland want independence despite the SNP dominating Scottish politics and holding power at Holyrood since the 2007 election, according to the survey of social attitudes.
The report that talked about “no consistent evidence” of a surge in support for independence will come as a blow to Alex Salmond’s hopes of delivering a “yes” vote in the 2014 referendum.
However, the sweeping survey that looked at British attitudes to welfare, immigration, standards in public life, job security, public services and the armed forces, found a dramatic increase in support for independence among English voters since Scots voted for devolution.
South of the Border, backing for Scotland’s departure from the union soared from 14 per cent in 2007 to 26 per cent in 2011 among the sample of nearly 1,000 adults.
There has also been a hardening of English attitudes towards Scottish devolution. Some 44 per cent of voters in England now say Scotland gets more than its “fair share of public spending” – the figure had stood at 21 per cent in 2000.
Thirty-four per cent of Scots surveyed said the economy would fare better as an independent nation.
The survey was published as former chancellor Alistair Darling said the SNP’s economic plans would force Scots into “servitude” and he dismissed Mr Salmond’s claim that an independent Scotland could retain the pound.
Opposition parties seized on the results of the survey of almost 1,200 Scots carried out by NatCen Social Research during July and September 2011 – to claim that there was “little support” for independence.
The 32 per cent backing for independence was nine points higher than in 2010, but lower than the 2005 figure of 35 per cent – the highest recorded in the annual survey since devolution.
Labour’s constitutional spokeswoman, Patricia Ferguson, said: “It is further proof that the SNP are increasingly out of touch with the priorities of the Scottish people. Scots are more concerned about jobs and a strong economy than they are about separating from the rest of Great Britain.”
However, an apparent contradictory figure in the survey showed that 43 per of the 1,197 Scots interviewed want Holyrood to make “all” decisions, with all powers over the economy, defence and foreign affairs devolved to MSPs.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the report as a “big boost” after it also showed that 72 per cent of those surveyed in Scotland wanted more powers for Holyrood.
“The survey shows 43 per cent support for independence and the Scottish Parliament making all the decisions for Scotland – up 15 points on 2010,” Ms Sturgeon said. “Becoming an independent nation is the most popular constitutional option, and demonstrates that the people of Scotland share our positive vision for the future of our country.”
However, Mr Darling, the leader of the Better Together campaign, attacked the SNP claim that an independent Scotland using the pound would be able to influence interest rates and would be handed a seat on the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee.
He said: “Again, as we see with the example of the eurozone, Scotland’s budget would have to be agreed with the remaining part of the UK. That’s not freedom, its servitude.”
The SNP also faced calls from senior business figures to set out a clear vision on tax, regardless of the result of a referendum on independence.
The call was made in a report, called Grasping the Thistle, from professional services firm Ernst & Young, which polled almost 200 individuals, all of whom hold senior management positions or higher in companies with operations in Scotland.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s information commissioner, Rosemary Agnew, was reported to have asked Scotland’s highest court for a meeting on Mr Salmond’s refusal to reveal whether the Scottish Government has legal advice on the status of an independent Scotland in Europe.