THE former chief strategist of the Yes Scotland campaign has said "the political energy has switched" away from a second independence referendum.

Stephen Noon added that the party that “steps in” to the battleground of those who want to see a stronger Scottish Parliament will benefit in the long run.

He told BBC Radio Scotland's Sunday Show that following the Supreme Court judgment as well as Nicola Sturgeon's resignation, "things have changed dramatically" and that Scotland is going toward a "normal political period".

It echoed comments he made following the Rutherglen by-election defeat in October when he said a “new phase in Scottish politics” was beginning.

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On Sunday morning, he said: "So, I think things have changed dramatically in Scotland. We’ve gone through a period where the referendum was the central political focus, the energy was around the referendum.

“But I think because of the Supreme Court decision and Nicola Sturgeon stepping down, the energy, the political energy, has switched and so people’s focus is less on who to vote for to get a referendum - because that’s not on the immediate horizon - and people are focusing more on who will be the next UK Government and what the SNP's record has been in Scotland.”

Noon said the General Election campaign for the SNP will be “more difficult than previous elections”.

“The victory in 2015 when the SNP won 50% of the vote and the subsequent elections where they got the vast majority of the seats are unusual. They are created by the particular circumstances of the post-referendum period and we’re now moving into a more normal political period I would say - where the SNP are not going to be winning 50% of the vote and 95% of the seats," Noon explained.

"There is going to be a more, quite-rightly, of a political battle in Scotland between the SNP and Labour party.”

Noon added that this was “good for Scottish politics” because having a competitive opposition “will make the SNP raise their game”.

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Noon, who also previously worked as an adviser to Alex Salmond while first minister, was followed on the show by professor of political science at Edinburgh University Ailsa Henderson.

Henderson was asked how important independence would be at the next election and said that when a majority of voters were asked their top three priorities in the General Election, independence rarely made the cut.

She said: “When you ask people what are the top three most important issues to you - the top two are almost always the economy and health.

“Almost half of the Scottish electorate consistently puts the economy and health, and then a quarter of Scots would put education, Brexit or independence in that list. That doesn't suggest it's the most important thing in peoples minds.”

Henderson said that the most popular choice “by a considerable margin” for voters when asked the priority statement they would make in an election, which included a choice of a constitutional statement, was removing the Conservatives from Government.

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“That is suggesting that even when you are putting a forced choice to people and mention something like independence, people are not putting it on the list - and that is true for SNP supporters as well. Around 40% of SNP supporters would say the most important thing about this next election is removing the Conservatives from office," Henderson said.

In the most recent Redfield and Wilton poll, the company interviewed 1040 people in Scotland between January 9 and 11. 

The polling further found that the economy is the most important issue for Scottish voters, followed by the NHS. Immigration came in third, education fourth, and independence/the Union came fifth.

Among 2019 SNP voters Scottish Independence is only the third most commonly selected issue (31%) behind the NHS (63%) and the economy (62%).