THE independence movement should encourage members of opposition parties who back Yes to “speak up” and push for a referendum to be held, campaigners have suggested.

It comes as a new report claims the number of Scottish Tory voters who support independence could be higher than actual members of the party.

The analysis, published by the think-tank Common Weal, has used polling data to analyse the demographics of independence.

It notes that pro-Yes Conservatives are a “definite minority”, and support for independence among Tory voters has remained consistently around 5%. The findings state: “This is not an entirely discountable number however.

“At the 2019 UK General Election, 692,939 people in Scotland voted for the Scottish Conservatives.

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“Polling suggests that at the time of the election, 2% of this group of voters were pro-independence which represents a little under 14,000 voters (as of the latest poll which placed Conservative support at 6% this may have increased to around 41,500 voters).

“During the Scottish Conservative leadership contest of February 2020 which resulted in the election of Jackson Carlaw, the party declared that they had 10,911 members eligible to vote.”

The report adds: “This raises the very real possibility that there are more pro-independence Conservative voters in Scotland than there are members of the party. A wise and strategic independence campaign would do well to seek out these voters and find ways to incorporate them and their views into the independence movement.”

Report author Craig Dalzell (below), head of policy at Common Weal, said one aspect of the finding was that it showed how few people now joined political parties. He added: “But it does show how shoogly some of these party positions could be, assuming they respect party democracy.

The National: Common Weal’s Dr Craig Dalzell

“I would advocate a concerted independence campaign would be finding these pro-independence Conservatives and encouraging them to become more politically engaged – to get them to speak up and to try to start swinging the party if not to a pro-independence position then at least to a pro-referendum one.

“Perhaps less with the Tories, but Labour and LibDems could be pushed towards a more pro-referendum position.”

The report found that between 2014 and 2018, overall support for independence continuously fell from around 45% to a low of 40%. It then rose continuously to a high just above 50% in early 2021 – before dropping back to 45% by June 2021. Between June 2020 and January 2021, there were 20 polls in a row which found majority support for the Yes side.

Dalzell said support for leaving the UK was being “bounced around” by the impact of external events, such as Brexit, in the absence of a “concerted” independence campaign.

He said: “At the start of 2021 everything turned very dramatically and very consistently.

“From January to June the No vote pushed right up – there is just a flip. And you see a similar thing in the people saying they want to vote Yes, it just flips and drops.

“So finding out the reasons for that I would say is a big thing for the independence movement. That would tell us where we have gone wrong this year.”