SUPPORT for Scottish independence was at 46 per cent when Nicola Sturgeon resigned and Labour are only two points behind the SNP at UK-level, a shock poll has found.

The survey, conducted by YouGov for the Scottish Election Study (SES), suggested the SNP vote share at the next Westminster ballot box could drop to 29%. In 2019, they returned 45% of the vote share.

That puts Labour second on 27%, up from 18.6% in 2019, and the Tories plummeting to 12%, down from 25.1% gained under Boris Johnson.

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However, pollster Mark McGeoghegan, removing the "don't knows" from the survey responses, put the SNP on 38% (-4) and Labour on 36% (+7), compared to a previous survey in January. 

The poll, conducted on the day Sturgeon gave her resignation speech in Bute House, also said 48% of Scots thought things were going in the “wrong direction” for Scotland.

It also found that most Scots saw the next General Election as a way to remove the Tories from office in Westminster, throwing further doubt on the SNP’s previous intentions to campaign on the single issue of independence at the ballot box.

The party’s special conference to thrash out the details and strategy for a de facto referendum has been postponed to allow the leadership contest to replace Sturgeon to play out.

Academic group SES commissioned YouGov to survey 1239 Scots in the five days before Sturgeon’s announcement.

The National: The poll put Labour 2 points behind the SNP The poll put Labour 2 points behind the SNP

With “don’t knows” removed, support for a Yes vote in an independence referendum was at 45.6% and No on 54.4%.

This also represented a decline in Yes support from the previous SES poll in November, which put Yes on 50.2%.

However, in January, a poll commissioned by The National gave Yes its second-highest lead of 54%. Following the Supreme Court decision that Scotland could not hold an independence referendum with the UK Government, six polls put Yes in the lead.

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SES researcher Dr Fraser McMillan said: “While the outgoing First Minister’s claim that there is now a majority for Scottish independence in the electorate is contradicted by Scottish Election Study data, it would be premature to write the movement off.

“Yes support rarely dips below the level achieved at the 2014 independence referendum, and, while it has dropped from recent highs, it still commands a majority among working-age Scots.

“Although Sturgeon has not achieved her life-long goal while First Minister, she has also not presided over any substantial decline in support for independence from the then-unprecedented 2014 result, shoring up backing among younger age groups.”

Professor Ailsa Henderson, head of the SES, said: “With independence support back at its 2014 levels, the prospect of a de facto referendum is a gamble made more complicated by the fact that Scottish voters perceive the next UK election as a way to remove the Conservatives from office.

“Yes supporters actually prioritise removing the current UK Government over maximising indy support, but for Labour and Lib Dem voters, constitutional preferences trump partisan ones.

“While the wider political context in the UK is sometimes used as an argument for independence, in this instance it seems likely to complicate paths towards it.”