A LEADING elections expert has given his verdict on public support for Scottish independence over the last year.

Political scientist Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, told BBC Good Morning Scotland that despite internal divisions within the SNP, public support for independence remains high.

Speaking on the show on Friday morning, Curtice (below) said: “The SNP’s internal divisions, particularly focused around statements from Fergus Ewing, Kate Forbes, Michelle Thomson, et cetera – the public have noticed, they are now much more likely to think that the SNP is divided.

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“But support for independence has not changed. We are still looking at a situation where almost half of people in the opinion polls say they would vote Yes to independence.”

Curtice attributed this to growing support for other parties which support independence, as he argued the SNP have become less popular under Humza Yousaf.

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“Support for the SNP is no longer dominating those who are in support for independence,” Curtice told presenters.

He added that the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election illustrated that “some” independence supporters would now be “going to vote Labour”, and that the General Election “could see Labour making significant progress” in Scotland.

When asked why the SNP are less popular, Curtice said it came down to Nicola Sturgeon’s “fateful decision” to resign as first minister in February.

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He continued: “In the wake of that, though perhaps not entirely as a result of that – although I think the decision has had quite substantial political consequences – the SNP have found themselves challenged for the position of Scotland’s most popular party in a way that they have not really been since they first entered Holyrood back in 2007, or became Scotland’s most dominant party at Westminster at the 2015 General Election.

“When Nicola Sturgeon resigned, support for the SNP was still running at about 43%, only a little bit down on what it was in the 2019 General Election.

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“We’re now looking at the position where on average the opinion polls still have the SNP just ahead of the Labour Party, but it’s only just ahead, support for the SNP is now running at about 36%.”

Curtice added that Humza Yousaf is “nothing like as popular as his predecessor”.

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He continued: “People don’t think he’s doing the job as well as people thought Nicola Sturgeon was doing it, even towards the latter days of her role as first minister.”

Amid growing speculation that a snap General Election could be called in May, Curtice said he believed “we’re going to be waiting a little longer” for an announcement.

“I think the Government are going to introduce tax cuts, in the hope that will turn the polls around.”

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But Curtice believed this would not turn the polls around for the Conservatives, as their main priorities lie elsewhere.

“I think what the Government probably has to appreciate is that the issue that seems to be of more concern to voters at the moment is […] the state of the health service”, Curtice said, adding that this was driving down support for the SNP too.

“The Conservatives are losing ground amongst those people who think the health service is doing badly, and a lot of people think the health service is doing badly.”