Opinions over whether Scotland should hold a second independence referendum are split down the middle, a pollster has said.
Nicola Sturgeon announced to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon that she intends to hold a second vote on October 19 2023, but will refer the matter to the Supreme Court to establish its legality.
The proposed date comes after the Scottish Government’s draft independence referendum Bill, released in March 2021, stated an intention to hold the vote in the first half of this parliamentary term.
Mark Diffley, director of the Diffley Partnership polling firm, told the PA news agency that while there is an equal divide between those who want a referendum and those who do not, there are also conflicting views on when such an event should take place.
Mr Diffley said this amounts to a “four-way split” on the matter, with one third of voters saying they want another referendum within the timescale set out by the First Minister, and about 20% wanting it to take place within the full five-year parliamentary term.
Another third have said they do not want a second independence referendum to take place, and the rest are undecided, he said.
The pollster said this shows that two-thirds of people do want another vote to be held, but are just undecided on the best timescale for it to take place.
He explained that those who would prefer to have the referendum take place sooner rather than later are likely to be very strong supporters of the independence cause, while those who are prepared for the prospect of it being held later on in the current parliamentary term will tend to be softer independence supporters who are seeking more strategy and preparedness.
The current Scottish Parliament term is set to run until 2026.
There are no clear indications of confidence from either side of the independence debate, Mr Diffley said, with both Yes and No looking equal in voting intention polls so far.
In the 2014 independence referendum, the Yes side’s 45% of votes were defeated by No’s 55% share.
Recent polls suggest No could be slightly ahead by two or three percentage points, he said, but there is not enough of a margin to suggest one side will fare better than the other as things stand.
Mr Diffley suggested that until a campaign gets under way, it will remain unclear how many more people are backing the Yes side eight years on, as well as whether there will be less people undecided compared to the last vote.
He highlighted a recent point in time where support for independence surpassed 50%, which he said arose from the Scottish Government taking the lead on Covid-19 strategy in Scotland.
During the height of the pandemic, the First Minister delivered daily televised briefings to households across the country to issue updates and answer questions.
Mr Diffley said the leadership exhibited was the cause for the rise in support, but added that it had since lowered and suggested it was not likely to occur again.
He also said the fallout from Westminster’s partygate saga has caused increased dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister for voters in Scotland, but said it had not translated into further support for independence.