The Brexit vote has failed to boost the Scottish independence cause and the SNP’s pro-EU stance cost the party seats in last year’s General Election, a new survey has found.
Nicola Sturgeon’s hope that EU withdrawal would increase support for breaking up the UK has failed to materialise, according to the latest chapter of the British Social Attitudes Survey.
The report by Professor Sir John Curtice and Ian Montague for the National Centre for Social Research also found the SNP suffered a significant loss of support from Eurosceptics in last year’s snap election.
The findings will come as a blow to Ms Sturgeon on the eve of the SNP’s conference in Aberdeen, which will today see the First Minister attempt to step up her campaign for independence.
The survey based on interviews with 1,234 adults in Scotland showed support for the SNP dropped 15 percentage points amongst those who were classified as Eurosceptics.
When compared with the 2015 General Election, support for the Nationalists amongst Eurosceptics fell from 51 per cent to 36 per cent when it came to the snap election that saw the SNP lose one third of its seats – falling from 54 to 34 MPs. The Conservatives, however, benefited from an increase in support from Eurosceptics, increasing their support from voters in that category from 14 per cent in 2015 to 28 per cent last year.
The authors placed voters into two camps based on their responses to the survey questions on the EU. Thirty-seven per cent of Scots are Europhiles, who think Britain should retain or enhance its relationship with the EU. Fifty-eight per cent were defined as Eurosceptics, who would like Britain to leave the EU or to reduce its powers.
In contrast to the dwindling support from Eurosceptics, the SNP’s support from Europhiles held up, only slipping slightly from 49 per cent in 2015 to 47 per cent last year.
The report’s authors said Brexit had created a “new line of division” in Scotland’s constitutional debate.
When it came to support for Scottish independence, the data showed 45 per cent wanted to split from the rest of the UK, the same percentage recorded in the 2014 referendum and a slight fall from the 46 per cent experienced in 2016.
Forty-six per cent said the Scottish Parliament should make all decisions for Scotland, compared with 51 per cent in 2015.
More encouragingly for Ms Sturgeon, the survey found an increase in the proportion of people who believe the economy would benefit from Scotland leaving the UK.