SCOTLAND will leave the UK at some point in the future, most people believe, according to the biggest test of public opinion on the issue since the referendum.


A UK-wide survey of more than 7000 voters found a majority believed Scotland would become independent eventually.

The poll, carried out on behalf of Edinburgh University, comes as the row over a possible Labour-SNP deal following the General Election will intensify today when Nicola Sturgeon, in a speech in London, will seek to broaden her party's political vision by stressing how the Nationalists want to play a "constructive" role to benefit not just Scotland but the whole UK too.

In a keynote address at the London School of Economics, the First Minister will say her government intends to bring forward, in a "positive spirit", constructive views on many aspects of UK policy, which affect Scotland but which are shared by many people south of the border.

She is due to say: "If we can be a constructive voice in the months and years ahead, we won't just serve Scotland's interests; we'll help where we can to bring positive change across the UK as well."

Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, came under Conservative attack for refusing 13 times in an interview to rule out a deal with the SNP, stressing how the Labour leadership's focus was on winning a majority.

But former SNP leader Alex Salmond suggested Ed Miliband would find it "very difficult" to reject the Nationalists' offer and boasted: "We'll shake Westminster to its foundations."

In last September's historic vote, Scots rejected independence by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

Since then, however, support for the SNP has surged. A number of opinion polls conducted in the immediate aftermath of the referendum found a small majority in favour of independence.

The latest survey was carried out in late January and early February.

In Scotland, it found 69 per cent of voters believed the country would become independent.

In England, 59 per cent said Scotland was set to leave the UK. A majority held the same view in Wales (54 per cent) and Northern Ireland (also 59 per cent).

Last week, Ms Sturgeon said another referendum could be held within five years.

She has identified David Cameron's proposed referendum on Britain's EU membership as a possible trigger, if Scots voted to stay in Europe but the rest of the UK opted to leave.

However, the new research, published today, suggested a majority of Scots believed the decision should be taken on a UK-wide basis.

Fewer than half (45 per cent) agreed with her call for Scotland and the other devolved nations to have a veto over any UK decision to quit the EU. In England, the figure was much lower at 32 per cent, with 36 per cent support in Wales and 40 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Researcher Dr Daniel Kenealy, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Social and Political Science said: "Despite Nicola Sturgeon's call for an EU referendum veto by the four nations of the UK, and First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones' support for the idea, it remains unpopular with people across the UK.

"This shows us that on some issues people across the UK still think in terms of a single political unit making big decisions."

A Labour spokesman said: "This poll shows that people are frustrated with the way that politics works, and they want to have a bigger say in how our country is run. Making our country work for working people is the best way to bring all parts of it together again.

In other findings, the survey suggested the referendum, which recorded a record 85 per cent turn-out, has had a lasting impact on levels of political engagement in Scotland, where significantly more people say they are likely to vote in the General Election on May 7.

Seventy six per cent of Scots plan to vote, compared with 64 per cent of people in Wales, 63 per cent in England and 55 per cent in Northern Ireland.

The referendum also seems not to have exhausted people's appetite for constitutional debate.

The survey suggested only around a quarter of people across the UK believed too much time has been spent discussing the constitution compared with 45 to 50 per cent who said too little attention had been paid.

Despite that, only a quarter of Scots believe ordinary people can influence how the UK is run. The view is shared by even fewer people elsewhere in the UK.

Dr Jan Eichhorn said: "People across the UK show an appetite for discussions about how the country should be governed.

"Seeing a lasting, positive effect on political engagement in Scotland beyond the referendum is encouraging and shows that people can be activated politically.

"However, it is worrying to see how little people think they can actually make a difference."

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: "With Labour flirting with the SNP in the hope it gets them into government and the Lib Dems dead in the water, it's no surprise people fear the constitutional question isn't yet over. The Scottish Conservatives are the only party completely committed to UK and the economy€Å½."

Researchers who interviewed senior figures involved with the Smith Commission said it was clear to them the Treasury was a "controlling and steering force" in the process, playing a key role in drawing up the detailed proposals.

They also said the Department for Work and Pensions withdrew its support for devolution of some welfare powers at a late stage in the talks.

They described the Commission's public engagement exercise, which invited views from the public and 'civic Scotland' bodies such as unions, churches and charities as "self protective" rather than a genuine attempt to influence the negotiations.

Willie Rennie for the Scottish Lib Dems added: "On the Commission and in government the Liberal Democrats were key to securing the Smith deal and we will ensure that it is delivered, despite the efforts of the SNP to disown an agreement that will give Scotland one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world."