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by Margaret Taylor
16 February 2023
Further poll shows SNP voters are divided on de facto referendum plan

Further poll shows SNP voters are divided on de facto referendum plan

There is no consensus among SNP voters on how best to pursue independence, with the party’s plan to turn an upcoming election into a de facto referendum dividing opinion.

According to an Ipsos poll carried out prior to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing her resignation, a third of SNP voters (34 per cent) are in favour of the SNP using the next general election as a de facto referendum while just over a quarter (27 per cent) think it should use the strategy at the next Holyrood election.

A fifth, meanwhile, believe that neither option is a good idea.

Support for the plan is even lower among the general public, with 44 per cent against the idea of a de facto referendum while 20 per cent would support it being used at the next general election and 15 per cent at the next Scottish election.

The results chime with exclusive Holyrood polling carried out by Tory party donor Lord Ashcroft that found that 21 per cent of the Scottish public are in favour of a de facto indyref, while two in three (67 per cent) are sceptical.

During her resignation speech Sturgeon said she had chosen to stand down ahead of a special SNP conference being held next month to determine the best way forward for the plan.

She said she felt she could not drive the agenda at that conference in the knowledge that she did not intend to remain as first minster to see what was decided through.  

Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos in Scotland, said the polling shows that a “key challenge” now facing Sturgeon’s successor is “which route to pursue towards independence”.

“The party is divided on what its independence strategy should be, and these findings highlight that there is no clear consensus among the party’s voters about which route the SNP should take either,” she said.

The polling of just over 1,000 people was carried out between January 30 and February 1 so does not take account of the impact Sturgeon’s resignation may have on voter opinion.

Former SNP First Minister Alex Salmond, who now leads the pro-independence Alba Party, indicated that he believes Sturgeon’s resignation has left the Yes movement with “no clear strategy for independence”.

Salmond praised the first minister’s talents as “a first rate political communicator and election winner” but said her departure left two questions for the SNP to answer.

“One is that the movement has been left with no clear strategy for independence,” he said.

“The previously accepted referendum route has been closed and the de facto referendum/election proposal is now, at best, up in the air.

“Secondly there is no obvious successor. There are a range of able people in the SNP but they will now be tested in the fire of leadership inheriting a range of serious government policy challenges.

“It is to be hoped that those voices which wish to reunite the national movement emerge to win that contest.”

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