A MAJOR shift in support for independence will only occur once a referendum campaign begins in earnest, a professional pollster has argued.

This follows the release of a Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times putting support for independence at 48%, with 47% opposed and 5% undecided. 

Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Show, pollster and former Ipsos MORI director Mark Diffley described the survey as “a statistical dead heat”, saying: “We’ve got the two sides running absolutely at 50-50.”

Reflecting on patterns that have emerged from previous polling, Diffley highlighted the negotiation of a hard Brexit and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic as causes for prior spikes in support for independence.

However, Diffley emphasised the number of undecided or uncertain voters who would be crucial to the outcome of a future referendum and suggested that significant change in levels of support for independence would not occur until campaigning is in full swing, saying: “Everything will come down to the campaign.”

Also appearing on the Sunday Show, Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie welcomed the prospect of a campaign, saying: “So much of the discussion in recent months has been process, process, process – what’s the path? I think now that we have a path, we can move onto the campaign, the issues of substance.”

A new independence poll has put Yes in the leadPatrick Harvie and Nicola Sturgeon have launched a new campaign for independence

READ MORE: Plan B: How a ‘de facto indyref2’ will deliver Scottish independence

Commenting on whether or not the Supreme Court would rule in favour of Sturgeon’s preferred route to second independence referendum, Harvie said: “Of course we have to be prepared for both possibilities.

“I think it’s quite clearly preferable that Scotland’s democratic mandate is respected. One of the big questions for the other side in this debate is: if repeated pro-independence majorities in both parliaments isn’t enough for a mandate, what on earth is?”

SNP depute leader Keith Brown welcomed the poll, saying: "The momentum is with the Yes campaign, and support for independence is only likely to grow further when we debate its merits and when the alternative is a broken, failing, corrupt Westminster system.

“When people in Scotland have the opportunity to cast their vote, I'm confident they will choose to escape the damage of Tory cuts, Brexit and Westminster control - and build a fairer, greener and prosperous future as an independent country."