Support for Scottish independence has surged and the SNP are heading for a landslide victory at next year’s Holyrood election, according to a new poll.
The survey, by polling agency Panelbase on behalf of the Sunday Times, found 54% of Scots now back the country going independent, almost turning on its head the 55-45 result of 2014’s referendum on the issue.
It also found strong backing for Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, with the first minister’s approval rating on the issue reaching 60 points.
The result represents a five-point leap in support for independence since the paper’s last poll was conducted in March.
The survey of 1,026 Scottish voters, which was conducted between June 30 and July 3, recorded a four-point jump for the SNP in the Holyrood constituency vote, taking the party to 55%.
The Conservatives dropped six points to 20% of the vote, while Labour went up one point to 15%. The Liberal Democrats and Greens remained unchanged at 6% and 3% respectively.
“Never before have the foundations of public support for the Union looked so weak.”
Sir John Curtice
Panelbase believe this would see the SNP secure 70 of the 73 first past the post seats under Holyrood’s additional member system. The Conservatives would take one such seat and Lib Dems would take the final two.
However, the SNP also enjoyed a two-point rise in the regional vote to 50%. The Conservatives dropped eight points to 18%, and Labour and the Greens gained two points each to reach 15% and 8% respectively.
Panelbase estimate this would see the SNP secure a further 11 seats at Holyrood compared to the last election in 2016, taking the total seats won to 74.
The poll predicts the Conservative will finish with 24 seats overall, Labour will take 17, while the Lib Dems will secure five. A total of nine seats for the Greens would result in a pro-independence majority of 37 at the Parliament.
Polling expert Sir John Curtice said the average of Panelbase polls over last six months, including the latest, puts Yes on 51% and No on 49%, the first time in polling history that Yes has been ahead for such a long period.
He believes the balance was tipped in favour of independence due to the perceptions of Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, as well as the country’s strong opposition to Brexit.
Sir John told The Sunday Times: “Never before have the foundations of public support for the Union looked so weak.
“Unsurprisingly, for many nationalists, the past three months have exemplified how Scotland could govern itself better as an independent, small country. More importantly, it may have persuaded some former unionists of the merits of that claim, too.”
Responding to the poll, SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “The majority of polls since the Westminster election have had Yes in the lead – majority support for independence is now the established position of the people of Scotland.
“On the basis of this sustained record support, it’s impossible for the UK government to deny Scotland a choice over its future.
“This out-of-touch Tory government exemplifies the very worst of the Union, and Boris Johnson may be the best recruiting tool for Scottish independence since Margaret Thatcher.
“The focus of the Scottish Government remains on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, this poll shows Nicola Sturgeon’s approval rating is three times that of Boris Johnson.”
He continued: “While the SNP take absolutely nothing for granted, these polls do make for positive reading ahead of the Holyrood election in 2021.”