FORMER Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has said the independence movement is “not in turmoil” and significant progress by Labour in the polls in Scotland cannot yet be “banked on”.

The ex-MSP, who is now ­director of the John Smith Centre at the ­University of Glasgow, also said the SNP was a “formidable campaigning machine” when it comes to elections and predicted there would be some “strong dividing lines” opening up between Humza Yousaf’s party and Labour in the run-up to the General Election.

Speaking at the UCL Constitution Unit’s annual conference last week, Dugdale said she did not actually think the independence movement is in turmoil.

She said: “There’s no doubt that the SNP are facing significant ­difficulties just now and perhaps the most ­difficult set of circumstances they have in recent history.

“But the the polls suggest that ­support for independence is still very high and averaging out around about 48%.

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“And then when you look at the party breakdown, we’ve had two ­election polls recently.

“One, yes, shows 10% drop in SNP support in the last six months, but that’s a drop from 51% to 41% and lots of political parties would envy a lead of 41%.

“And secondly, the most recent poll had the SNP and Labour level ­pegging on 34% which obviously looks and sounds very competitive and is leading to a lot of suggestions that Labour will win heavily in the general election.

“But I would again point out that’s the first time that Labour have been in the 30s since I think around about 2010. So I think we need to see a few more polls before we could really bank on that degree of progress.”

Dugdale said she believed there was no “real hunger or demand” for increased devolution at the moment among Unionist parties.

She said there was a ­“tactical” ­element to it as well, with the ­“prominent leaders and frontbench spokespeople” in the Unionist parties tending to come from a ­movement of Unionists that “believes that ­ceding further powers to the Scottish ­Parliament will weaken the union”.

The National: Starmer in SelbyStarmer in Selby (Image: PA)

But she said this could change in the near future as the General ­Election approached.

“The SNP are formidable ­campaigning machine – that’s why they’ve won every election since the independence referendum and done so handsomely,” she said.

“If you presume that they will get their act together, then I think you can anticipate some quite strong ­dividing lines between the SNP and Labour coming to the fore in the next few months.

“I would point to the different stances Labour and the SNP have, for example, on immigration.

“The SNP are very ­pro-immigration and will tie it to an economic ­necessity within Scotland’s economy to have more inward migration.

“Labour for reasons south of the border have increasingly, I would ­argue, anti-immigration rhetoric.

“Equally the SNP will argue that an independent Scotland would ­reenter the European Union… whereas ­Labour have made it very clear that they will not reenter the European Union. Of course, we have markedly ­higher support for the European ­Union in Scotland than we do elsewhere within the United Kingdom.

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“And finally, the SNP will ­argue that they would enhance social ­security. And I think we’ll see ­increasingly from Labour a ­sentiment in the opposite direction one about fiscal restraint, certainly that’s has been Rachel Reeves positioning in the past, and I think we’ll hear more of that again.

“So that does open up some new ­dividing lines between the two ­parties, and it could reignite a conversation about further powers for the Scottish Parliament in the aftermath of that General Election.”

Meanwhile Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said he can “guarantee” that Labour will not make any kind of deal with the SNP to get into government at Westminster.

Speaking on the BBC podcast ­Political Thinking with Nick Robinson, he repeated a pledge of “no ifs, no buts, no deal with the SNP” and said ­Labour was “going flat out” to win a majority. Asked what Labour would do if it did not win outright he added he could “give a guarantee” a deal with the SNP is “not going to happen”.