More than half of voters in Scotland oppose Nicola Sturgeon’s preferred timetable for a second independence referendum, a new poll has suggested.

The Survation poll found only 38 per cent believe there should be another referendum within two years.

It comes after the First Minister restated her aim to hold another vote before the end of 2023, Covid permitting. 

She told MSPs she has ordered civil servants to restart work on an independence prospectus.

But a poll for pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union found 52% of Scots felt there should not be an independence referendum in the next two years.

The remaining 10% said they did not know.

The poll also found 57% of Scots would vote to remain part of the UK in a referendum, with only 43% in favour of leaving the UK, once undecideds are removed.

However, it posed a different question to that used in 2014, instead asking: "Should Scotland remain part of the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?"

Among those who voted SNP in the 2021 Holyrood election, 20% would vote to remain part of the UK, and 24% do not believe there should be a referendum on independence in the next two years.

Survation polled 1,040 adults aged 16 or over in Scotland between August 31 and September 1.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “This poll confirms that Nicola Sturgeon is out of touch with the people of Scotland.

“A majority of voters oppose her plans for a divisive second referendum within the next two years, and she should listen to what people are telling her."

With the SNP conference due to get underway tomorrow, Ms Nash added: “Just days before the SNP conference, this poll is a timely reminder to Nicola Sturgeon to focus on what really matters to people – the Covid recovery, protecting out NHS, creating jobs, and tackling the climate emergency."

An SNP spokeswoman accused Scotland in Union of asking a "loaded" Brexit-style Leave-Remain question.

She added: “It was only four months ago that the people of Scotland voted and that vote provided a cast-iron democratic mandate for an independence referendum – on top of that, a recent independent opinion poll found majority support for a referendum in the current Holyrood term.

“Independence offers Scotland the chance to re-join a market around seven times bigger than the UK and to take our own decisions to create a fairer, more prosperous country instead of having unwanted policies like Brexit foisted on us by the likes of Boris Johnson - and this is why the people of Scotland voted to be offered a choice over their future.”

Meanwhile, Deputy First Minister John Swinney yesterday promised a comprehensive “financial prospectus” on independence to reflect the economic upheaval since the referendum of 2014.

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme, he said the Scottish Government would give the public “relevant and realistic” financial information, as the world was now in a different place.

The Scottish Government last produced an independence prospectus in November 2013, when Ms Sturgeon and Alex Salmond published their 650-page White Paper.

Elsewhere, Alex Salmond's Alba Party is set to declare independence an "immediate priority" at its own conference this weekend as it takes aim at the SNP.

The former first minister said the SNP and its power-sharing partners in the Greens are "failing across many areas of policy" including health and education.

The first policy motion to be debated at the conference states that “Alba believes that Scottish independence is an overwhelming and immediate priority for the people of Scotland and notes with growing concern the failure of the Scottish Government to implement successive electoral mandates from the Scottish people to progress this aim".

Mr Salmond said independence is "not an alternative or something to be postponed until after Covid but is essential to genuine recovery".

He said: "Independence is not something for the hereafter, it’s something for the here and now."