The argument about whether voters themselves actually want another referendum has sparked into life again.

The SNP claim that the outcome of the Scottish Parliament election shows that they do. However, a poll by Survation for the pro-independence Scotland in Union campaign published today has found that while 38% do want a referendum within the next two years, 52% do not.

How do we resolve this apparent contradiction? The first point to note is that the pro-independence majority at Holyrood is not a fair reflection of the votes in the ballot boxes. Just over half the constituency votes were cast for pro-Union parties while just over half of the list vote went to pro-independence parties. Neither side can point to the outcome of the election as clear evidence that most voters back their point of view.

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At the same time, however, the time frame of ‘two years’ that was specified in the Scotland in Union poll was crucial. Many a previous poll has found that there is not majority support for holding a referendum in the near future.  For example, just after May’s election Savanta ComRes asked voters in which year, if any, another ballot should be held. Only 23% plumped for 2021 or 2022. Meanwhile, just a month ago, Redfield & Wilton reported that while 40% supported holding a referendum in the next year, 47% said that they were opposed. It has long been clear that even some voters on the Yes side are not necessarily keen to see a ballot held soon.

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However, this does not mean that a majority are opposed to holding a second referendum at some point during the new parliament’s five year term. Redfield & Wilton found that slightly more, 42%, were in favour of a ballot within five years than were opposed (40%). When in June Panelbase offered voters the option of a ballot in 12 months, within two to five years, or not at all, more (54%) chose one of the first two options than said there should not be a ballot at all (46%). Meanwhile, another new poll today, this time by Opinium for Sky News, has found that while 44% were opposed to holding a ballot within the next five years, slightly more, 46%, were in favour.

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Of course, these findings point to no more than a narrow majority in favour of holding indyref2 at some point during the course of the current parliament. This is not surprising. Most Yes supporters want a referendum while most No supporters do not. According to Redfield & Wilton 86% of Yes supporters support holding a referendum within five years, while 81% of No supporters are opposed. In their poll today, Opinium report that no less than 93% of independence supporters want a ballot within five years, while 88% of those who back the Union believe that a vote should not be held within five years, if at all.

Given that nowadays the Yes and No camps are more or less of the same size – as confirmed by Opinium’s latest poll which puts Yes on 51% and No on 49% - it is inevitable that the polls also find that Scotland is more or less evenly divided too on the issue of holding a ballot.

However, what is clear is that while some of them may not be pushing for an early ballot, most SNP – and indeed Green – voters do want the Scottish Government to deliver a referendum at some point. Ms Sturgeon may have some time to develop her plans for independence – but ultimately she will eventually have to deliver.

John Curtice is Professor of Politics, Strathclyde University, and Senior Research Fellow, ScotCen Social Research and ‘The UK in a Changing Europe’