The SNP’s chances of winning an outright majority at Holyrood this week is “too close to call”, with “razor-thin margins” determining the outcome of the contest, pollsters have suggested.
The survey by Opinium suggested support for the SNP was slightly down in both the constituency and regional section of the ballot, but projected the pro-independence party could win a slim majority in the Scottish Parliament.
Nicola Sturgeon “will argue that a good result this week gives her the mandate to put the question [of independence] back to the Scottish people, demonstrating just how important this week’s vote will be for the future of the Union,” the pollsters added.
In the constituency vote, the poll found the SNP are down two points to 51 per cent while the Conservatives under Douglas Ross were up two points (23 per cent) with Labour slightly behind on 19 per cent.
On the regional ballot, SNP support also dropped by two points to 23 per cent, with the Tories up by one point to 23 per cent and Labour, led by the recently elected Anas Sarwar, remaining steady on 17 per cent.
The polling — commissioned for Sky News — projects Ms Sturgeon could win an outright majority with 67 of the 129 available seats at Holyrood, with the Conservatives in second place with 29 MSPs and Labour behind in third place with 20 representatives.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens, who run mainly on the list section, were at 8 per cent on this, ahead of former first minister Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party, which was on 3 per cent.
On the issue of Scottish independence, however, the poll also found that voters were split 50-50 — down from 51 per cent support for Yes in April’s poll.
While remaining the most popular leader, the survey suggested Ms Sturgeon’s favourability ratings had seen a “noticeable fall”, with a net approval rating of + 17 — down from +23 the last time the poll was conducted.
“The campaign finishes much where it started, with razor thin margins set to decide whether Nicola Sturgeon can govern alone or will need the backing of other pro-independence parties,” senior research manager at Opinium Chris Curtis said.
“But despite that fact, our latest polling shows the Scottish public are not necessarily keen on another Scottish independence referendum. Even if she does win a majority, just 43 per cent think there should be one in the next five years, compared to 50 per cent who think there shouldn’t. We have also seen Labour voters harden in their view over the campaign, with just 24 per cent willing to back one in those circumstances.
He added: “Regardless, Sturgeon will argue that a good result this week gives her the mandate to put the question back to the Scottish people, demonstrating just how important this week’s vote will be for the future of the Union”.
It comes after Ms Sturgeon stressed last week she was not proposing a “referendum right now”, as she suggested the SNP would reject a proposal from the newly formed Alba party to immediately negotiate a second vote after the Holyrood elections.
The Scottish first minister insisted the immediate focus needed to be concentrated on the recovery from the pandemic, but the party has said a referendum should be held on Scotland’s future inside the UK “once the Covid crisis has passed”.
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