A MAJORITY of voters believe Scotland would be better off or have the same level of prosperity if it becomes independent, according to new research published today.

The report by John Curtice for the National Centre for Social Research shows that 54 per cent of Scots think the country would be better off or remain the same, a rise of six per cent since the same question was asked by the survey team in February last year.

Broken down, the survey found that 35 per cent thought the economy would do better, 19 per cent the same, while 44 per cent thought it would do worse.

The findings provide a boost to the Yes cause and comes just weeks ahead of the expected publication by the First Minister of a long-awaited report on the SNP’s new economic thinking which she has said will be used to restate the case for independence. Expectation has been growing over recent weeks that she plans to hold a new vote on independence before Brexit in March next year.

The Growth Commission is due to make recommendations for policy on boosting economic growth and improving Scotland’s public finances.

In contrast, Curtice’s report found people on both sides of the Border believed the UK economy would be in a worse state after Brexit, with 58 per cent of Scots thinking so, and 52 per cent of people in England and Wales sharing that belief – an increase from 46 per cent south of the Border since February.

It also found a majority of Scots want decisions about fishing and farming to be made in Scotland post-Brexit with 62 per cent saying decisions about fishing should be made by the Scottish Government once powers have been repatriated from Brussels, and 59 per cent believing the same for farming.

However, the survey of 859 people carried out in October last year revealed a majority would also like to keep the same rules as the rest of the UK on reserved issues such as trade (67 per cent) and immigration (63 per cent).

The research found that 59 per cent of voters in Scotland back an end to freedom of movement with the EU, slightly lower than the 64 per cent of voters across Britain as a whole. Some 49 per cent of the sample backed a Yes vote in 2014, and 35 per cent No.

But Scots were more likely than those in the rest of the UK to prioritise free trade with the EU over control of immigration, with 63 per cent of people in Scotland willing to accept free movement in return for free trade compared with just 53 per cent across Britain as a whole.

The survey shows Scots have become more critical of the way that both the UK Government and the EU are handling the Brexit negotiations.

More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of Scottish voters think the UK Government is handling things badly, up from 57 per cent in February, while 55 per cent think the EU is handling the talks badly, up from 44 per cent.

Curtice, senior research fellow at ScotCen, said: “Our results suggest both the UK and the Scottish Government may need to do some rethinking of their plans for post-Brexit Scotland.

“The UK Government’s proposal that EU responsibilities for devolved areas such as fishing and farming should in the first instance at least be given to Westminster appears to be out of tune with the public mood north of the Border.

“Equally, the Scottish Government appears to have made little headway in persuading voters that Scotland should have a closer relationship with the EU post-Brexit. Most still think the rules on EU trade and immigration should be the same in Scotland as in the rest of the UK.”

Despite the increase in the number of people believing the Scottish economy would fare the same or better under independence, the change did not correspond to a rise in support for independence. Last February 47 per cent would support a Yes vote, compared to 44 per cent in October.