THERE is an appetite in Scotland for a second independence referendum to take place sooner rather than later, according to a new poll.

The Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times found that 51% of Scots want indyref2 to be held either when the UK is negotiating to leave the EU or has finished the negotiations. Only 48% of voters are against another independence referendum in the next few years.

Professor Sir John Curtice told the paper: “It seems that the days when Unionists could claim with confidence that Scots do not want another independence referendum any time soon may have come to an end.”

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The poll of 1024 voters, carried out this month, also suggested the country is near-evenly split on how to vote on independence. 51% would back No while 49% would opt for Yes.

The paper’s poll also indicates that 38% of people believe Scotland is likely to become independent within the next 10 years.

Ian Blackford, the SNP Westminster leader, said: “There is a growing realisation that Scottish voters are going to face a choice of being in the European mainstream or sticking with the Brexiteers, who are going to damage our economic future.”

The stunning survey follows on from a poll earlier this month that suggested 53% of voters in Scotland would back independence if Boris Johnson becomes prime minister.

The former foreign secretary has been accused of avoiding Scotland as he tours the country on his campaign to replace Theresa May (pictured below).

The National:

There had been speculation that Johnson was preparing to travel to Gretna or Dumfries before a hustings in Carlisle.

According to a report in the Sunday Mail, Tory activists in David Mundell’s Dumfries and Galloway were “primed for a possible meeting with the PM in waiting”.

READ MORE: FACT CHECK: Is there a mandate for indyref2?

But the Tory ran out of time and had to cancel the meeting.

A Johnson spokesman said: “Unfortunately he could not make the event in Gretna for operation reasons and time overruns.”

The paper’s source said: “Boris is campaigning as if the leadership is his to lose.

“All the indications are that it is. But failing to cross the Border is not a good look for him especially given the highly publicised difficulties he has with the Scottish party and the public.”

Johnson went on to the hustings instead where he made an extraordinary gaffe describing Westminster as an “England-only parliament”.

The National:

The frontrunner was asked by a Tory activist if there was a case for devolution in England.

“I’m not convinced there is a case for an England-only parliament,” he said. “We have an England-only parliament. It’s in Westminster. It’s been there for a long time. I’m not disposed to create another parliament.”

Asked what he would do if he became prime minister and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wanted permission for another referendum, he said the 2014 vote had been a “once in a generation” event and he could see “no reason at all in going over that again”.

READ MORE: Johnson: ‘We have an England-only parliament. It’s in Westminster’

He went on to say that Sturgeon would be “bonkers” and “deranged” if an independent Scotland resulted in a hard border with England.

“I think if Nicola Sturgeon – and I want to be polite here but deranged springs to mind – were to impose a hard border on people coming from the rest of the UK to Scotland or goods and services coming from the rest of the UK to Scotland it would be absurd,” said Johnson.

“But of course we will not be doing any such thing. We will impose no borders ourselves nor do I think for a second that anything like that will happen.

“One of the advantages of Brexit – and I don’t think people fully understand this – is that far from threatening the Union Brexit, if it is done right and sensibly, is going to cement and intensify our great Union, the awesome foursome of our country.”

Johnson said the SNP would “not have much of a song to sing” once the UK came out of the EU.

He said that independence for Scotland had been “honestly and expertly discussed” in the run-up to the 2014 vote just as the issues had been debated before the Brexit vote and in both cases the voters had come to the “right” conclusion.

“In the case of the Scottish referendum it was made absolutely clear at that time that it was a once in a generation event and I see no reason at all in going over that again,” he said.

“Whatever you may say about referendums they do divide people one from another, they do divide families, they do divide societies and I think what people all want now is for people to come together and unite.”

Last week, Sturgeon told Sky News that Johnson was seen in Scotland “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.”