NICOLA Sturgeon has said she is confident that Yes would win a new referendum as a poll suggested a majority of voters in Scotland would support independence if Boris Johnson becomes prime minister.

The First Minister was speaking in a television interview yesterday, and her remarks coincided with a survey by Panelbase which found 53% of voters in Scotland would back the country becoming independent in the event the former foreign secretary leads the UK Government.

“I’m absolutely confident that we would win a referendum,” she said.

“There is no doubt the case for independence is stronger than it has ever been. I’m more confident than I have ever been that Scotland will take that opportunity to be an independent European nation playing our part in the world.”

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The poll of 1024 voters, conducted last week for the Sunday Times, found that support for independence currently stands at 49% – an increase of 1 point since last month – but would rise to 53% if Johnson becomes PM.

The First Minister said choosing Johnson as leader would be disastrous for the Conservatives, particularly in Scotland.

She said he was seen as one of the principle people responsible for the Brexit “mess” by those living in Scotland, where 62% voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum.

In an interview on Sophy Ridge On Sunday, she was asked her views on the impact choosing Johnson as prime minister would have on the Conservatives in Scotland.

She said: “I think he would be devastating, disastrous for the Conservatives UK-wide but particularly in Scotland.

“He is seen in Scotland I think as one of the principle politicians who are responsible for the mess that we are in over Brexit, the guy who misled people in the EU referendum campaign and the guy who now says he is prepared to take the UK out of the EU without a deal, for most people in Scotland that is a horrifying prospect.”

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Sturgeon added that Johnson has made “overtly racist” comments, mentioning the time when he compared Burka-wearing Muslim women to “letterboxes”.

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The First Minister also called on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to “get off the fence” on the issue of a second EU referendum and urged the party to decide which side they are on.

She said: “We’ve been trying to work with Jeremy Corbyn to get him behind a second EU referendum, thus far that hasn’t happened.

“If we have a no-deal Brexit or a catastrophic Brexit all of the damage that is done from that, Jeremy Corbyn if he doesn’t get off the fence on a second EU referendum will bear almost as much responsibility for that as Theresa May and the Conservatives.”

She added: “I think the prospect of a no-deal Brexit has increased significantly but also I think the potential to stop that happening if Jeremy Corbyn gets off the fence has also increased.”

The First Minister has earmarked the second half of 2020 for when a second independence referendum could be held but she is unlikely to get the necessary powers to hold a legally binding ballot from the new PM, be it Johnson or his rival Jeremy Hunt.

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Commenting on the poll, SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “This is a stunning poll that shows independence is within touching distance.

“Even without the nightmare scenario of Boris Johnson as prime minister a referendum would be too close to call – but if he wins, as expected, backing for independence is set to surge.

“Under any leadership, the Tories’ support is slumping in Scotland – and after coming fourth in the European election the party is now set to lose seats at both Holyrood and Westminster. While we take nothing for granted, it’s no wonder voters are continuing to put their faith in the SNP – the only party with a way out of the Brexit mess and a vision for a better Scotland.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “The answer to Boris Johnson as prime minister is not the creation of a separate Scottish state.

“It is his early removal from office and the election of a progressive Labour government. It is clear that Boris Johnson and the Tory Party are the biggest threat to the UK.”

The Panelbase poll found Johnson had an approval rating in Scotland of minus 37 (representing the difference between those who think he is doing a good or bad job), less than Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who had a rating of minus 24, the same as Hunt.