Most Scots do not want an early referendum, as support for independence slides

Barely one in four Scots want an early independence referendum and even a majority of SNP voters oppose the move, according to an opinion poll that prompted claims Nicola Sturgeon is "out of touch".

The survey, published to coincide with this weekend’s SNP conference, found backing for another separation vote being staged this year or next has fallen since February from 35 per cent to 27 per cent.

Only 41 per cent of SNP voters and half of those who would vote for independence said a referendum should be staged by the end of 2022.

Around four in five (79 per cent) Scots agreed that: “It is more important that Scottish politicians focus on tackling coronavirus than on constitutional issues right now”, compared to just 21 per cent who said the opposite.

With Scotland’s NHS embroiled in a treatment crisis, even three-quarters of independence supporters said the pandemic should be the top priority.

In a major blow for Ms Sturgeon, the poll also found support for independence has tumbled by eight points since February to 48 per cent, with backing for the Union at 52 per cent.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to focus on the pandemic

Credit: Getty

The First Minister’s demand for a second referendum was boosted by the survey finding a further 26 per cent of people would back a vote taking place by the end of 2024.

However, she wants one by autumn 2023 at the latest and 45 per cent of voters said it should not be staged until the Scottish Government has made clear which currency would be used after independence.

Around four out of 10 people (41 per cent) said it should be delayed until there is clarity over whether an independent Scotland would be admitted to the EU.

If a referendum were to be held tomorrow asking ‘should Scotland be an independent country?’

The same proportion said the economy and employment should bounce back to pre-pandemic levels before another referendum is held.

The poll, conducted by Stack Data Strategy for the Onward think tank, was published after Ms Sturgeon last week disclosed she had ordered her civil servants to draw up a "detailed" prospectus for independence.

Ms Sturgeon, who on Monday delivers her keynote speech to the SNP’s virtual conference, has said she is prepared to wait until after the immediate health crisis has passed before holding another referendum.

Breaking from the UK seen as essential

However, she has argued that separating from the UK is essential for Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic and that the vote should be staged by November 2023.

The SNP noted that 62 per cent of voters backed a referendum happening by the end of 2026. The current Holyrood parliament ends in April that year.

A spokesman said: "This poll shows a clear majority of people in Scotland want an independence referendum in the current Holyrood term – in line with the cast-iron democratic mandate for one secured in May’s election when Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP were re-elected with a record share of the vote."

Will Tanner, Onward’s director, said: "As the SNP gather for their virtual party conference this weekend, it is clear that their priorities are not those of the Scottish people.

"An overwhelming majority – including three in four of the SNP’s own voters – say that the Government should focus on tackling coronavirus, not constitutional reform, and less than a third of people want a referendum in the next two years."

The poll of 1,007 Scots, conducted between September 1 and September 8, also found more than half (51 per cent) of Labour voters do not want a referendum before the May 2026 Holyrood election and that 62 per cent of Tories think there should "never" be another vote.

Liz Smith, the Scottish Tories’ Shadow Finance Secretary, said Ms Sturgeon was "out of touch" with the Scottish people. She added: "As we recover from the pandemic, the last thing Scotland needs is another damaging and divisive referendum."

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