MOST voters north of the Border back independence, according to a Panelbase poll.

It is the first time the Yes side has been given a majority in public surveys since the weeks after the EU referendum, when one put support at 53 per cent. Since then research has suggested backing for independence has dipped, standing around 45 per cent, the same level as at the 2014 referendum. But yesterday a poll revealed 51 per cent of voters were now in favour.

It found 41 per cent of voters wanted Scotland to be an independent member of the European Union, while a further 10 per cent favoured independence outside the bloc. Support for the Union stood at 48 per cent, while 54 per cent believed Scotland would be independent within 15 years.

The results will be a boost to the pro-independence parties and a blow to their Unionist counterparts, who have put opposition to independence at the heart of their local and General Election campaigns.

Labour has brought back key figures from the pro-Union Better Together campaign to play a major role in the election. That association with the Tories and the LibDems has been blamed for the collapse in the Labour vote, with the party earning the hard-to-shift nick-name “Red Tories”.

Yet today ex-Better Together chair Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor, is campaigning to help Ian Murray hold Edinburgh South, while last week its former campaigns director Blair McDougall was unveiled as Labour candidate in East Renfrewshire.

Yesterday’s poll, commissioned by the Sunday Times, also found voters believe the SNP would have the right to hold a second independence referendum if the party wins more than half of the Scottish seats on June 8.

Currently, the SNP hold 54 of 59 Westminster seats and experts believe it is on course for victory again north of the Border. Forecasts have suggested the Tories could get up to 12 MPs.

Theresa May has said that “now is not the time” for another ballot on Scotland’s place in the UK despite Holyrood voting in favour of the issue being put to people again in the wake of Brexit, and also following the SNP’s win in last year’s Holyrood election. They stood on a platform of holding a second independence vote if Scotland backed remaining in the EU but the UK overall voted to leave.

The Panelbase poll of 1029 adults was carried out between April 18 and 21, after May called the General Election, and found 52 per cent of voters believe the Prime Minister should not stand in the way of a new referendum if Sturgeon makes a manifesto commitment to try to secure one and wins a majority of the Scottish seats.

Its results were yesterday welcomed by the SNP and Scottish Greens.

“Support for independence in Scotland has remained strong. The question the Tories don’t want to answer is this: if they lose this election in Scotland will they drop their undemocratic bid to stand on the way of people choosing their own future?” said Derek Mackay, the SNP’s business convener.

“There is already a cast-iron democratic mandate for giving Scotland ‎a choice on its future – and this poll follows other recent findings showing that people across Scotland think Theresa May would be wrong to try to block a referendum indefinitely.”

On BBC Sunday Politics Alex Salmond said the General Election is about backing Holyrood’s right to exercise the mandate for an independence referendum.

The former First Minister insisted his message was not at odds with Sturgeon’s, who last week said: “This election is not about deciding whether or not Scotland is independent.”

Asked by presenter Andrew Neil whether the General Election is about independence or not, Salmond yesterday said: “I’ve said exactly the same as Nicola Sturgeon on that.

“The issue of independence will be decided in a national referendum of the Scottish people.

“The mandate for that referendum was gained at last year’s Scottish election.

“This election is about backing the right of the Scottish parliament to exercise that mandate and also providing real opposition to the Tory Government and of course allowing the Scottish Parliament to resist austerity and some of the public expenditure that you’ve been talking about.

“That’s what this election is about, backing our Scottish parliament.”

Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens’ external affairs spokesperson, said: “Scotland’s mandate for self-determination is clear. Our elected parliament has debated and passed a call for an independence referendum and it is a democratic outrage that the Westminster Government continues to deny this.

“It’s good news for the Yes movement that so many people believe we will be independent in 15 years’ time. Our task is to persuade those people to support putting Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands today.”

Taking to the campaign trail today in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh, Darling is expected to stick to Labour’s message, saying the SNP should rule out “another divisive independence referendum and focus on the day job”.

“On June 8 people can vote Labour to send Nicola Sturgeon a message that Scotland doesn’t want or need another divisive referendum,” he will say.

“In 2014 we were told the referendum was a once in a generation event, and Scotland voted No by a clear margin. That’s the mandate the Nationalists must respect. Scotland is divided enough.”

Meanwhile, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond are to visit a nursery in Aberdeenshire.

They will point to their party’s investment in childcare, and criticise Tory cuts to child tax credits.

Commenting ahead of the visit, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The SNP is doubling childcare to give children the best start in life and help parents in to work while the Tories are cutting child tax credits – making life harder for working parents. “The Tories can’t be trusted to help families – policies like the two-child tax credit limit and the abhorrent rape clause illustrate that.

“A vote for the SNP will ensure there is a strong voice in Westminster to stand up for Scotland.”