SCOTS would vote for independence if the UK decides to leave the European Union, a poll published yesterday has suggested.

The survey found that Nicola Sturgeon would have the backing of 54 per cent of people in Scotland to call a second referendum on whether the country should leave the UK if Britain votes to exit from the EU.

It also suggested the Yes to independence campaign would win the day by 52 per cent – up seven points on the 45 per cent who voted Yes in September 2014 and five points on the 47 per cent who say they would vote for independence anyway.

The Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times and Heart FM of 1,053 voters in Scotland and 1,034 adults in England and Wales also found that people in Scotland were overwhelmingly against an EU exit, by 65 per cent to 35 per cent, in contrast to people in England, who were narrowly in favour by 53 per cent to 47 per cent.

However, with England’s population significantly bigger than Scotland’s, the No To EU campaign would have to win by just one per cent to outvote people in Scotland and risk taking Scots out against their will.

The First Minister has put a vote to leave the EU against Scotland’s will at the top of her list of shifting political circumstances that could trigger a second independence referendum.

Panelbase managing director Ivor Knox said: “While there have been some sporadic indications of movements in attitudes, our polls since the 2014 referendum have generally shown a small majority opposed to independence, including polls following the election of a Conservative majority government in last year’s UK General Election.

“It seems that the tipping point leading to – or preventing – independence may not be related to short-term party politics but rather to the other major constitutional issue of the day: Britain’s relationship with Europe.”

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, told The Sunday Times: “If Britain were to vote to leave the EU it could tip the balance on independence from a narrow margin against to a narrow margin in favour.”

The survey also found that Scots voters think independence is a matter of time, with just more than two-thirds (67 per cent) viewing it as likely within five to 30 years.

The poll was conducted from January 8 to 14 this year and followed reports suggesting David Cameron’s referendum on the UK’s membership of Europe could be held this summer.

Last week, the former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish said he would support Scottish independence if the UK voted to leave Europe against Scotland’s wishes.

McLeish said a so-called Brexit would spark a “constitutional crisis” resulting in the break-up of Britain if a Scottish majority vote to stay in the European Union was at odds with the rest of the country.

“As far as the EU is concerned, the Conservatives are playing with constitutional fire," he told The Sunday Times. "If the UK votes to leave the EU and Scotland votes to stay in, then there would be a constitutional crisis. As a passionate European, I would not wish to be part of the UK and would anticipate a new Scottish referendum which would take Scotland out of the UK to become a new member of the EU.”

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