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Voters in Scotland are split over whether a second independence referendum should take place in 2023, according to a new poll.
The survey, conducted by Panelbase for The Sunday Times, showed that 44% of voters voiced an opposition to a ballot taking place, while 43% said they were in favour.
One in 10 of respondents said they neither supported nor opposed holding a vote, and a further 3% said they did not know.
The Panelbase poll asked 1,010 voters for their views last week, ahead of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing on Tuesday that she intends on staging a referendum on October 19, 2023.
The revelation of the proposed date came after the Scottish Government released its draft independence referendum Bill in March 2021, where it stated a desire to hold the vote in the first half of this parliamentary term.
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Some 48% of the survey’s respondents confirmed that they would give their backing to a bid for Scottish independence – but a close 47% said they would support Scotland remaining part of the UK.
And 5% said they did not know which side their vote would go to.
So far, the UK Government has refused to grant its consent for an independence referendum to be held, citing the 2014 independence referendum as being a “once in a generation” event.
But Ms Sturgeon has said she will turn to the UK’s Supreme Court to establish the legality of holding a vote without the backing of Westminster.
Should that also be rejected, the Scottish Government has declared the next Westminster general election will be a “de facto referendum” on Scotland’s future within the union.
More than three quarters (76%) of respondents to the Panelbase poll said they believe Boris Johnson will continue to reject the idea of an independence referendum taking place next year – but almost half (46%) said they felt he should allow for one.
Meanwhile, 48% of the voters surveyed said they believed the Supreme Court will rule that Holyrood does not have the power to legally hold a referendum without consent from the UK Government, in comparison to 33% who said they think the judges would rule in the Scottish Government’s favour.
Some 19% said they either did not know which outcome will occur, or preferred not to say.
If the referendum does not go ahead next year and the SNP instead looks towards the next Westminster election – set to be held in 2024 – the Panelbase survey suggests that Ms Sturgeon’s party could gain 47% of the vote.
The SNP’s depute leader, Keith Brown, told The Sunday Times that the poll showed support for the Yes campaign has grown “to a narrow lead”.
“With support for independence growing to a narrow lead and only a minority opposed to a referendum next year, this poll underlines that it is people in Scotland who have the democratic right to determine our own future — and not Boris Johnson,” he told the newspaper.
But Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron told The Sunday Times: “The SNP government needs to focus on the key challenges facing the country, the global cost-of-living crisis and soaring NHS waiting times, instead of splitting the population with a reckless push to break up the UK.”