THE SNP has welcomed an “encouraging” poll which showed majority support for independence, even though it showed a substantial number of voters deserting the SNP.

Ipsos’ latest Scottish Political Monitor found Yes was in lead, by 53 per cent to 47%. While that's down three points since December, it's a less significant drop than the party's 10 point fall over the same time period.  

The pollster found that the SNP would take 41% of the vote at the next Westminster election, down from 51% in December.

Scottish Labour has increased its support, and is in second place, with 29% of the vote, with the Tories a distant third on 17%. 

Nevertheless, the poll was more optimistic for Humza Yousaf’s party than an earlier YouGov survey which forecast the SNP losing 21 seats. 

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Ipsos said there were signs that more 2014 Yes voters were “beginning to consider voting for parties other than the SNP” with the bond between support for independence and support for the SNP “weakening.” 

While 69% of 2014 Yes voters said they would vote for the SNP at a general election, this is a fall of 12 percentage points compared to a year ago. 

Labour’s support among 2014 Yes voters has increased by 9 percentage points compared with a year ago, to 15%.

Emily Gray, Managing Director of Ipsos in Scotland, said: “In the wake of Nicola Sturgeon’s unexpected resignation, a divisive leadership contest and controversy over the party’s funding and finances, support for the SNP has fallen back. 

“With First Minister Humza Yousaf’s approval ratings weaker than Nicola Sturgeon’s were, it may be challenging for the party to regain that support. 

“Meanwhile, Labour will be hoping that the indication in this poll of a weakening relationship between past independence support and voting for the SNP becomes a trend on which they can capitalise.”

Anas Sarwar is the only political leader in the poll to receive a positive net satisfaction rating with 40% satisfied with his performance as Scottish Labour leader, while 33% are dissatisfied.

However, 27% don’t know enough to rate him.

Humza Yousaf’s ratings are less positive. 35% of voters are satisfied with his performance as First Minister, while 44% are dissatisfied, giving a net satisfaction rating of -9.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross receives a negative net satisfaction rating of -25, though that is an improvement on his previous rating of -38 last December.

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The SNP Westminster Deputy Leader Mhairi Black said: "This is obviously a very encouraging poll – but we take nothing for granted.

"The SNP is working hard to tackle the cost of living, improve public services like our NHS and build a fairer economy – but we are absolutely clear that independence is essential for our long term future.

"Independent countries that are like Scotland are both wealthier and fairer than the UK. With all our talent and resources there is no reason an independent Scotland could not match that success."

Alba Party’s General Secretary Chris McEleny said: “This big lead for independence support shows why the unionist parties should beware with their glee as it is clear that support for independence continues to remain high - with over a majority of Scots saying they would vote for independence. 

“It is clear a majority of Scots are now ready to vote for independence if given the opportunity to do so. 

“However, this poll makes clear that there is now a continued trend in Scotland. Support for the SNP is falling whilst support for independence remains high. Almost a third of those that voted Yes in 2014 would now not back the SNP.”