MORE than half of voters would back the next Holyrood election being used as an “opportunity to vote for or against independence”, a new poll has revealed.

The survey, carried out by Survation on behalf of James Kelly’s Scot Goes Pop, will almost certainly escalate the tensions in the SNP over the so-called Plan B.

It comes ahead of the party’s virtual National Assembly this weekend where members will meet to discuss “the tactics and strategy on the route from here to Independence Day”.

Last month, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterated her Government’s commitment to a “legal, constitutional rule to becoming an independent state”. However, that involves securing a Section 30 order from Downing Street and so far Boris Johnson has repeatedly rejected any requests. He even recently suggested there should be no indyref2 until 2055.

There are tensions in the SNP over what needs to happen next.

MP Angus MacNeil and Councillor Chris McEleny have recently called for the First Minister to give the Prime Minister a deadline of March 31 to say whether he will grant a Section 30 order. If not, they say next election – currently due to be held on May 6 – should, in effect, be a proxy vote on independence.

In the poll, Survation asked voters: “The UK Government has stated that it will seek to prevent a Scottish independence referendum taking place for several decades, regardless of whether Scottish voters elect a Scottish Government committed to holding a referendum.

“In view of this stance, do you think pro-independence parties, such as the SNP and Scottish Greens, should or should not include an outright independence pledge in their manifestos for this year’s scheduled Scottish Parliament election, to give people the opportunity to vote for or against independence?”

With don’t knows excluded, 55% said it should, while 45% said it should not.

READ MORE: Ruth Wishart: Is Douglas Ross serious about getting Better Together going again?

In his analysis, Kelly said it was clear voters were “plainly sympathetic to abandoning Plan A right now”.

McEleny said the poll proved it was now “time to seize the initiative”.

He told The National: “The SNP have had a strategy for many years of asking the UK Government to ‘allow’ the people of Scotland to have a choice on their own future, yet despite election win after election win, the UK Government refuses to accept the Scottish Government’s mandate to hold a referendum. It is clear we need a Plan B, and it is clear that a clear majority of people in Scotland are ready to support that plan.”

MacNeil agreed: “As nobody at any level in the Scottish Government can guarantee a referendum in the next parliament, the only legal and constitutional ballot box event that is certain in the foreseeable future is the Scottish elections in May.

“The people could and should be asked if they want to be independent then. It would of course be incumbent on everybody to respect the decision the Scottish people make.”

However, SNP depute leader Keith Brown said the Holyrood election was about giving voters a chance to back “a fresh referendum on independence in the next parliamentary term”. He added: “A vote for the SNP in May will give voters the opportunity to decide who should govern Scotland: the people who live and work here, through their democratically elected Scottish Government, or the likes of Boris Johnson in Westminster.

“The longer Boris Johnson sticks to his Trump-like denial of democracy, the more support for independence and a referendum on Scotland’s future will continue to grow.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said there was too much at stake to make next May’s vote entirely about independence: “In our campaign the Scottish Greens will restate our consistent position that with independence we can build a fairer, greener and more democratic Scotland, and that the people of Scotland have the right to choose their future.

“Elections address all the issues that are important to voters, such as the pandemic, Brexit and the climate crisis. Green voters know that we will continue to push the SNP out of their comfort zone to be more progressive, take on vested interests and build the fairer and greener Scotland we know is possible.”

Yesterday we revealed how, the poll put support for independence on 51%, down one point.