The number of people who said they would back Scotland breaking away from the rest of the UK in a referendum has risen six points to 37% in 18 months.
Pollsters TNS-BMRB questioned 1022 voters across Scotland after Alex Salmond’s party won a majority at the Holyrood elections on May 5.
They found the First Minister still has much work to do if he is to convince Scots they should go it alone.
Less than half (45%) would still vote No -- one point down on a similar poll carried before the election.
But Mr Salmond will be boosted by the findings that people in Scotland’s biggest city are the most likely of any region to be in favour of independence, with 46% saying they would vote Yes.
He has made winning overall control of Glasgow City Council an SNP target in next year’s local elections.
The numbers of those undecided on how they would vote in a referendum fell five points to 18%.
The previous poll was the last before plans for a referendum were scrapped in the first SNP term in the face of concerted opposition from other Holyrood parties. It was a low ebb in a series of nine TNS polls, with the same 15-point lead for opponents of independence found in the first poll in August 2007.
Polls in spring and summer of 2008 showed the gap closing and the gap narrowed again in early 2009.
Now, with the SNP Government determined to hold a referendum, opinion appears to be on the move again, although the poll took place before this week’s controversy over Scottish Secretary Michael Moore’s claims that there may have to be not one but two referendums.
Chris Eynon of TNS-BMRB said: “While it is recognised that this poll does not take into account other options relating to increased powers for the Scottish Parliament and the fact that these might be included in a future referendum … it does provide a stark measure of how attitudes towards independence per se have moved since the SNP first came to power in 2007 and announced their intentions in this direction.
“On the headline level, it would appear that the independence cause has received a boost from the SNP’s recent
election victory. Yet, while support for the independence option has indeed increased by 6% since November 2009, it should be noted that the latter figure was the lowest to date in the series of polls and the latest reading simply marks a return to levels recorded in the first half of 2009.
“There has been no real increase in support for independence since this series of polls was started in 2007. In addition, the latest recovery has been drawn largely from the undecideds, with opposition to independence remaining firm since November 2009.”
He added: “Overall, then, the findings and longer-term trend data suggest that the success of the SNP in the recent election does not herald any significant increase in support for independence generally at this stage and their decision not to rush into an early referendum is well-founded.”
The question used in all the TNS-BMRB polls has used the wording suggested in the 2007 White Paper -- that voters either agree or do not agree “that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state.”
The latest poll showed 51% of voters under 24 support independence with 36% against. Those aged 25-34 were in favour by 40%, with 36% against, and 38% of the 35-44 age bracket were in favour, with 36% against. Over the age of 65, the figure is 57% against to 28% in favour.
Women are 11 points less likely to support independence than men. This is mainly because the undecideds among them are 10 points higher on 23%.
Meanwhile, Mr Salmond, who met David Cameron in Downing Street yesterday, damned Mr Moore’s remarks about the need for a second referendum on independence if Scots vote Yes in the first one.
He said: “It’s pretty clear the Secretary of State’s remarks earlier in the week were confusion rather than conspiracy. As I’m a generous soul who doesn’t like putting people in an embarrassing state, that matter is genuinely coming to rest.”
Mr Moore said: “I’ve nothing to add.”
The poll involved 1022 voters in their homes across 71 constituencies from May 25 to May 31.