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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 September 2006, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
New poll calls for independence
Alex Salmond
The poll claims Alex Salmond would be a popular first minister
An opinion poll published on Sunday has claimed that independence is more popular in Scotland than the current devolution settlement.

According to a Sunday Times YouGov survey, 44% of respondents said they backed a separate Scotland compared with 42% who did not.

SNP leader Alex Salmond was also voted a more popular choice for first minister than Jack McConnell.

The poll took place between Tuesday and Thursday and involved 1,200 people.

The SNP and Labour are currently neck and neck in terms of popular support in the polls.

Scots seem to want a Scottish Parliament that is more powerful than it is, that has better ability to do things differently from London
John Curtis
Professor of politics at Strathclyde University

The poll, which was conducted at the height of the prime minister Tony Blair's difficulties this week, also showed the SNP on 29% for the first-past-the-post vote and the same level of support for the second proportional representation vote.

Labour support was only one per cent ahead at 30% with a 27%share of the vote in the second PR vote.

On this showing, the paper predicts that the Nationalists would take 38 of Holyrood's 129 seats, enough to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, Labour's current governing partners, and the Greens.

Labour would narrowly remain the biggest party with 42 seats, down from its current 50.

The survey also revealed that a large majority, 64%, of those questioned, favour more powers for the Scottish Parliament while only 19% favour the status quo.

Standards dropped

Despite first minister Mr McConnell's high profile crusade to tackle anti social behaviour, 58% of Scots said they believed the problem had become worse since the last Holyrood election.

Some 39% say the NHS had become worse and 22% believe standards in schools have also dropped.

Commenting on the YouGov, SNP deputy leader Nicola Surgeon said: "These are dramatic and detailed findings which will increase the panic in Scottish Labour.

"They show that Labour are suffering not just because of the Blair-Brown bloodletting but also because of their failures in Scotland."

John Curtis, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, warned that Labour should advocate more powers for the Scottish Parliament to avoid an electoral backlash.

He told the paper: "Scots seem to want a Scottish Parliament that is more powerful than it is, that has better ability to do things differently from London.

"All of the other parties in Scotland are looking to go into the election wanting to change the devolution settlement and it seems to me that the Labour Party ought to be too."


SEE ALSO
Blair dismisses voting shake-up
12 Jul 06 |  Scotland
English voters 'oppose Scots PM'
14 May 06 |  Scotland
SNP's independence referendum bid
08 Apr 06 |  Scotland

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