news04aThe Scotsman
24 November 2009

SUPPORT for both the SNP and an independence referendum has fallen, according to a poll published today.

Fewer than one in three people said they would vote yes in an independence referendum, with more than half saying they would vote no.

Labour were put ahead of the Nationalists in voting intentions for both Westminster and Holyrood in the poll.

The survey, carried out by YouGov, questioned 1,141 Scots between November 18 and November 20.

And the results were published in the Daily Telegraph just days before the Scottish Government is expected to launch its plans for an independence referendum Bill.

Those who took part were asked how they would vote in a referendum, if they were asked whether they agreed or disagreed that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the UK Government so that Scotland becomes an independent state.

A total of 29% said they would vote yes – down from 31% in October 2008.
And 57% said they would vote no – an increase from the poll last October when 53% gave this answer.

The number of people who said they did not know how they would vote in an independence referendum fell slightly, from 16% in October last year to 15% in the latest poll.

The poll also found that 47% of those questioned said there should not be a referendum, as it would be a distraction from more urgent issues that need tackling.

But 45% said there should be a referendum on independence within the next two or three years in order to settle the issue.

When questioned on how they would vote in a Westminster general election, 39% said they would back Labour – the same percentage of the vote the party won in the 2005 election, but up on the 29% support the party had in an August 2008 opinion poll.

Support for the SNP was at 24%, which is up from the 18% they polled in the last general election, but down from last August when support for the Nationalists was at 36%.

The poll put the Conservatives on 18%, the same as the August 2008 poll and up from the 16% they achieved in the last general election, while 12% said they would vote Liberal Democrat – down from the 23% of the vote the party won in the 2005 election and slightly lower than the 13% support they had last August.

The YouGov survey also put Labour narrowly ahead of the SNP in Holyrood constituency voting intentions.

In the poll 33% said they would vote Labour, while 32% said they would support the Nationalists, with 15% of people questioned backing the Tories and 14% supporting the Liberal Democrats.

A poll last August gave the SNP a lead of almost 20 percentage points over Labour, with the Nationalists then having 44% support compared to 25% for Labour.

Today’s YouGov survey also suggested that approval ratings from the SNP minority Government have fallen.

A total of 41% of people questioned said they approved of the administration’s record to date – down from 52% in April last year.

And the number of people who disapproved of the Government’s record increased from 27% last April to 36%. Over the same period the number of people who answered don’t know to this question went from 21% to 24%.

Tom Harris, Labour MP for Glasgow South, said: « This shows that Scots know the general election is a two-horse race – and the SNP aren’t in it. »

The poll took place after the Glasgow North East by-election, where the SNP came in second place behind Labour.

And Mr Harris said: « Coming on top of the SNP’s collapse in Glasgow North East, these figures show that Salmond’s target of winning 20 seats is a fantasy beyond fiction. »

The Labour MP claimed the poll findings on support for independence showed that « separation remains a minority sport ».

He added: « Alex Salmond should abandon his damaging referendum now. The money he has budgeted for it should be spent on real projects, like Glasgow’s airport trains. »

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: « The poll clearly shows that the General Election in Scotland is a two-horse race between the SNP and Labour – with SNP support already six points up on the last general election. »

He added that the number of people who said they would vote SNP at the next Holyrood election was « virtually identical » to when the party won the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections, describing this as « remarkable and extremely encouraging some two-and-a-half years into office ».

Mr Robertson continued: « Some surveys have shown support for independence lower, others higher. The reality is that the SNP have the confidence to put the option of independence and equality for Scotland to the people in a referendum, so that they have their say. »

He also pointed out: « Support for a referendum itself is some 13 points up on a similar YouGov survey back in March, which is also positive. »

Meanwhile Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie said the poll results were « another terrible setback for Alex Salmond and the SNP ».

And she demanded: « Mr Salmond should stop wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on his obsession with an independence referendum, ditch his doomed Bill and get on with the job people elected him to do. »

Miss Goldie added: « The Telegraph poll shows that only David Cameron’s Conservatives can replace this tired and failing Labour Government and a vote for the SNP or the Liberal Democrats will only help Labour cling to power for another five years. »