THE former chair of the Yes campaign has described a poll putting support for independence at 48% as a “wake up call” for the SNP.

Dennis Canavan said the finding showed “there was no room for complacency” and added “more effort” should be made to update the case for independence and act on the mandate for a new vote that was achieved at the Holyrood election in May.

The SNP secured a record fourth term in government last month with voters returning a majority of independence MSPs with Nicola Sturgeon’s party winning 64 seats and the Greens six – their largest number to date in the 129 member parliament.

In her victory speech the First Minister declared that Scots “had voted” for a new independence referendum, later telling the Prime Minister it was a matter of “when not if” it took place.

However, since then some politicians and commentators say the campaign has gone quiet.

READ MORE: John Curtice tells SNP they need to fire up independence campaign

A poll published yesterday indicated that support for independence has dropped in recent months. The findings of a Panelbase survey carried out for The Sunday Times suggests that, excluding “don’t knows”, 48% would now back independence – a drop of four points since April.

The National: John Curtice: Argument for independence may not be enough to satisfy SNP voters all the time

Professor Sir John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, told the newspaper the results indicated “a cooling of the independence ardour” since the Holyrood elections last month.

He also said the SNP needed to launch a fresh independence campaign or risk seeing hopes for a Yes vote fade.

Responding to the finding and Curtice’s comments Canavan, who was chair of the 2014 pro-independence campaign, said: "This latest poll should be a wake-up call.

“There is certainly no room for complacency in the campaign for independence.”

Canavan, a former Labour MP and independent MSP, went on to quote Labour party founder Keir Hardie on the importance of campaigning to keep momentum for a cause building.

He added that work needed to be done on the Yes side to update policies including on what currency an independent Scotland would use and what would be the new state’s relationship to Europe and the rest of the world.

“To paraphrase Keir Hardie on the importance of continuous campaigning: ‘we are either going forward or we are being driven back. There is no such thing as standing still’,” he added.

“The Scottish Parliament has a clear mandate for independence and for indyref2 as a means of achieving it.

“More effort must be made to act on that mandate. We must up-date our policies and get a meaningful message across on such issues as currency, debt and our relationship with Europe and the rest of the world.

“We must work harder than ever to win more hearts and minds to the cause to ensure that an independent Scotland becomes a reality.”

The Panelbase poll found some 46% of respondents said there should not be a referendum on Scottish independence “in the next few years”, while 19% said one should be held “in the next 12 months”.

Some 35% indicated a vote on independence should be held in the next two to five years.

It also indicated 22% of voters thought Scotland was likely to become independent within the next five years, regardless of support or opposition to independence. Some 24% of respondents said the country was likely to become independent within five to 10 years, while another 24% suggested it was not likely “at any point in the next few decades”.

A series of polls last year recorded support for independence at more than 50% with a survey in December putting it at 58%, the second time polling gave that figure.

The survey in December by Savanta ComRes, commissioned on behalf of The Scotsman, put support at 58% with “don’t knows” removed, the same figure was seen in an Ipsos MORI poll in October last year. Including the “don’t knows” the Savanta ComRes poll showed Yes on 52% and No on 38%.

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The SNP’s Holyrood election manifesto commits to a referendum taking place within the current parliament which ends in 2026. It’s a position backed by the Scottish Greens, who are in talks with the Scottish Government about a formal co-operation agreement.

The First Minister has said she wants a new independence vote before the end of 2023 so long as the Covid pandemic has passed regardless of the PM’s agreement. An SNP spokesperson said: “The people of Scotland have delivered a cast-iron mandate for a fresh independence referendum when the Covid crisis has passed.

“It’s clear beyond any doubt Westminster has shown it is incapable of delivering the change that is required for Scotland’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. Scotland must have the right to decide our own future, so we can choose a better path than Boris Johnson’s shambolic Tory government and continue to build a fairer country.”