A NEW poll has found Scotland split down the middle on independence, with unhappiness with the Tory government at Westminster appearing to drive the recent rise in support for leaving the UK.

The YouGov survey for the Scottish Election Study's Scottish Opinion Monitor (Scoop) found 50.2 per cent of Scots would vote Yes in a referendum, excluding don’t knows.

This is a far closer result than a clutch of recent polls putting Yes on up to 56%.

However it was the first time since December 2021 the Scoop poll had found majority support for independence, and was up from 47.6% in August.

YouGov surveyed 1,210 Scots between November 22 and 25, which took in the Supreme Court ruling on November 23 that Holyrood cannot stage Indyref2 without Westminster’s consent.

Asked how they would vote if Indyref2 was held tomorrow, 43% said Yes, 42% No, with 8% undecided, 2% refusing to say, and 5% refusing to vote.

Nicola Sturgeon has said that, in light of the Court’s ruling, she will fight the next general election as a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence.

However the poll found support for the SNP far below the level she would require to claim a win on that basis, with increased support for Labour a threat to the Nationalists.

Asked about voting intention in a future UK General Election, 31% of respondents saif they would back the SNP, 23% Labour, 11% the Conservatives, with 13% undecided and 9% saying they would not vote.

Among prospective voters this would translate into 41% for the SNP, well shy of the 50% target for the Yes side if the election served as a proxy referendum on independence. 

Excluding don’t knows, Labour’s vote share would rise to 30%, a jump of more than eleven points on 2019, while the Tories would plunge to 14%, ten points lower than in 2019.

The survey suggested Labour’s improved fortunes appeared to be driven by equal proportions of Tory and SNP supporters backing them, but also by more than one in four Liberal Democrats saying they would back Scottish Labour in a general election.

On the Holyrood constituency vote, support was 46% SNP, 23% Labour, 15% Conservative 8% Liberal Democrat and 1% Green, excluding don’t knows.

There was widespread  negativity about the state of Scotland, with 39% of respondents saying it was headed in the wrong direction, compared to 31% saying it was going in the right direction, and 9% undecided.

People’s top priorities were the economy (58%), health (52%) and Scotland’s constitutional future (28%).

Almost four in five (77%) of Scots said the economic situation in Scotland had got worse in the past 12 months, with only 3% saying it had improved, with 38% of people blaming the policies of the UK Government, 21% the Scottish Government, and 25% blaming both.

Overall, 37% of people said Ms Sturgeon’s government had done a good job since the Holyrood election last year, with 34% saying a bad job, and 19% neither good nor bad. 

That net rating of +3 for the Scottish Government contrasted with one of -71 for the UK Government 5% good, 76% bad), down from -57 in August, just before Liz Truss took office. 

On Brexit, 70% of Scots say the UK was wrong to leave the European Union, compared with only 20% of those saying it was right to leave and 10% saying they don’t know.   

Professor Ailsa Henderson, head of the Scottish Election Study, said: “The results on vote intention suggest we are once again seeing a divergence between Holyrood and Westminster electoral preferences, with Scottish voters more open to backing Labour in a UK election than they are in a Holyrood election. 

“These results suggest a Scottish Labour recovery is possible, but that it might be limited to Westminster rather than Holyrood. 

“And because higher support for independence is not necessarily translating into higher electoral support for the SNP, the results also suggest treating a Westminster election as a proxy referendum poses risks to the SNP.”

SES researcher Dr Fraser McMillan added: “It’s quite clear that support for independence has increased in recent months. 

“However, our data suggest that, as was the case at the height of the pandemic, recent Yes gains are probably more to do with diverging perceptions of UK and Scottish government performance than more abstract procedural arguments. 

“This raises big questions around what might happen to public opinion on independence in the event that Labour win a majority at the next UK general election”.