The SNP have suffered a fresh blow after a new poll revealed only a third of Scots who support independence believe it is a top priority for their country.
The YouGov survey showed, among those who voted to break up the UK at the 2014 referendum, just 33 per cent thought independence should be a main priority for the Scottish Government.
This compared to 62 per cent who thought health should be a main priority, and 53 per cent who thought the economy should be a key concern for Scottish ministers.
The poll, conducted between January and April, also revealed how the SNP were still Scotland’s best supported party on 40 per cent – but had suffered a five-point drop since their 45 per cent vote share at the 2019 general election.
Scottish Labour were shown to have gained ground on Humza Yousaf’s party by attracting the support of 28 per cent of Scottish voters.
This was up 10 per cent on Labour’s 2019 vote share and put Anas Sarwar’s party in second, ahead of Douglas Ross’s Scottish Conservatives in third (17 per cent in the YouGov poll).
Among those who voted to break up the UK at the 2014 referendum, just 33 per cent thought independence should be a main priority for the Scottish Government
Labour’s increase in support from their 2019 performance was found to have come from among both Yes and No voters from the 2014 Scottish independence referendum
Anas Sarwar’s Scottish Labour were shown to have gained ground on the SNP by attracting the support of 28 per cent of Scottish voters
Humza Yousaf has witnessed turmoil in the SNP since taking over as leader from Nicola Sturgeon amid the chaos of the continuing police probe into the party’s finances
Labour’s increase in support from their 2019 performance was found to have come from among both Yes and No voters from the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
The party’s vote share was revealed to have increased by 15 points among unionists, which was largely at the expense of the Tories (down 12 points).
Among independence supporters Labour were up eight points, with the SNP losing the same percentage of voters.
But YouGov’s Adam McDonnell, research director of political and social research, said this ‘only tells part of the story’.
He revealed that splitting Yes voters by whether or not they see independence as a top order issue ‘shows that where Labour are really gaining ground amongst this cohort is amongst those who don’t feel it is a priority right now’.
‘Labour are up 12 points with this group, and while the SNP still hold the majority of these more agnostic independence supporters (59 per cent) they are down 12 points since 2019,’ he wrote in an article on the YouGov website.
‘Those who do see independence as a priority right now are far more loyal to the SNP, with 90 per cent planning to vote for the party to Labour’s miniscule 4 per cent.’
Mr McDonnell said the polling implied Labour were ‘on course to gain ground in the next election from both sides of the independence debate’.
But he said the party’s main gains so far had come from unionists amid the drop in the Tories’ poll rating across the UK.
Among those who voted against independence in 2014, the YouGov poll found 70 per cent said health should be a main priority for the Scottish Government, while 61 per cent chose the economy, and 42 per cent chose education.
Just 4 per cent of those who voted to remain in the UK in 2014 chose whether or not Scotland becomes independent as one of three main priorities.
Since replacing Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and First Minister, Mr Yousaf has insisted Scotland becoming independent is still a ‘realistic’ goal.
But he has witnessed turmoil in his party since taking over amid the chaos of the continuing police probe into the SNP’s finances, which saw Ms Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell’s Glasgow home search by officers.
Responding to the YouGov poll, SNP deputy leader Keith Brown said it was ‘brilliant to see the SNP is still by far the most trusted party across Scotland but we take absolutely nothing for granted’.
However, Jackie Baillie of Scottish Labour said it was ‘clear that Scotland is ready for change and Labour will be the party to deliver it’.
‘Voters are sick of the sleaze and incompetence of the SNP and the Tories, but this isn’t as good as it gets,’ she added.
A Scottish Conservative spokesman said it was ‘clear increasing numbers of voters are deserting the feuding, scandal-ridden SNP’.
‘While the nationalists are distracted by their own civil war, only the Scottish Conservatives are focused on Scotland’s real priorities,’ the spokesman said.
‘And voters know that in numerous seats up and down Scotland, we are the only party who can defeat the SNP.’