SCOTS are overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of holding another independence referendum this year, according to a new poll.

The exclusive BMG poll for The Herald shows that, when ‘don’t knows’ are excluded, more than 6 in 10 Scots, 61.5 per cent to 38.5 per cent, said that they were against a new vote in 2017.

The poll also reveals support for an independent Scotland running at 45.5 per cent when ‘don’t knows’ are removed - almost identical to the 2014 referendum result - with 54.5 per cent opposed.

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Nicola Sturgeon has already said that a second referendum is “highly likely” and “on the table” after the UK’s shock vote to leave the European Union.

A consultation on the Scottish Government’s new draft referendum bill is due to close next week.

However, many within the SNP argue that it should wait until polling suggests that that most Scots back independence before calling another vote.

And there are signs that a significant minority of the party’s supporters agree.

Almost a third of SNP voters said that they did not want an independence referendum in 2017.

In response to the poll the SNP said that its focus was to protect Scots from the impact of a hard Brexit.

But a spokesman for the party added: “It can’t be right to sit back and accept everything this increasingly right-wing Tory Westminster government wants to do to Scotland no matter the cost to our economy, public services and living standards.”

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Dr Michael Turner, head of polling at BMG Research, said that more than two years after the independence referendum it was “‘as you were’ for Scots; with no discernible movement in support for either side.

“However, given that Scotland has gone to the polls on no less than five occasions in the past two-and-a-half years it is perhaps unsurprising that our latest poll shows a clear majority of Scots are against another independence referendum being held within the next year.”

He added that the results showed that Scotland “remains as divided as it has been in recent years”, with support for independence strongest among the young.

A majority, 51 per cent of those aged between 16 and 34 are in favour of independence, whereas just a quarter, 25 per cent, of those aged 65 and over share the same view.

There was also a “clear poverty divide”, he said.

The poorest Scots are much more likely to support an independent Scotland than those with average and higher annual household incomes.

Almost half, 48 per cent, of those from households on less than £25,000 a year are in favour of independence, compared to just 35 per cent of those from households taking in more than £25,000.

The SNP spokesman added: “The Scottish Government has produced a detailed plan which would keep Scotland in the European Single Market even if the rest of the UK leaves and Theresa May should be given the opportunity to consider those proposals.”

Green MSP Ross Greer said that it was “good to see” support for independence had “not declined as so many had predicted”.

He added that it was “impossible to say with any certainty whether or not there will be another referendum soon” because it was still unclear if the UK Government would consider the Scottish Government’s Brexit proposals.

Labour’s shadow Scottish Secretary Dave Anderson said the EU referendum result “should not be used as a false mandate for another referendum on Scottish independence”.

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Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said that the poll results were “another clear message to the SNP to ditch its plans for another referendum.

“The decision was made in 2014, and the public has no appetite to revisit it.

“Instead, the SNP should be concentrating on the job at hand.”

Lib Dem economy spokesman Carolyn Caddick said: “This poll shows that the people in Scotland have had enough of division. With a New Year the SNP should make a resolution to not divide the country further and work towards the simplest and best option Scotland has at protecting its place in Europe which is a Brexit deal referendum.”

The Scottish Government declined to comment on the poll.

BMG surveyed 1,002 Scots between December 9 and 13.