Poll: Having SNP in power dampens support for independence

Having the Scottish National party (SNP) in power in Holyrood actually dampens support for independence among the public, new research suggests.

The findings come in a new poll which found support for Scottish independence to be at its lowest level since devolution.

ScotCen Social Research's annual Scottish social attitudes survey found just 23% of Scots now support independence, a drop of nine points since 2011.

"During the course of the last twelve months the independence debate moved firmly to the top of the Scottish political agenda," said John Curtice, research consultant at ScotCen Social Research.

"Yet the proponents of independence have apparently struggled to capitalise on the resulting opportunity to persuade Scots of the merits of their case. Instead more voters appear to have become concerned about the prospect of leaving the UK."

The eight annual readings between 1999 and 2006, when the SNP were not in power, shows support for independence averaging 30%, but the readings after Alex Salmond became first minister shows support only averages 26%.

This year's survey found fewer Scots are optimistic about the effects independence would have on the country.

Just 42% think it would give Scotland a stronger voice in the world, down nine per cent on last year.

Fifty-nine per cent said they would be 'quite' or 'very' worried about the prospect of independence, up from 46% in 2011.

Only 19% believe the gap between rich and poor would narrow in an independent Scotland, suggesting Salmond's left-of-centre social democratic message has not convinced the electorate.

Twenty-five per cent said the gap would increase, while 47% said it would make no difference.

Even among those who believe the gap would narrow, support for independence stands at only 38%, suggesting the issue is not central to voters' concerns.

However, arguments for Scotland becoming richer overall seem to have much more resonance. Fifty per cent of those who think independence would make the Scottish economy stronger back independence and support hits 74% among those who think it would make the country's economy 'a lot' stronger.

However, only 34% believe the Scottish economy would be stronger under independence.