Page last updated at 14:17 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 15:17 UK

Scots 'want an independence vote'

Man putting vote in ballot box
The Scottish Government wants a referendum next year

An opinion poll commissioned by BBC Scotland has shown a clear majority (58%) of Scots want a referendum on independence next year.

The poll also suggests support for the Union outstrips that for independence from the UK.

However, the poll found the percentage of people saying they support independence varies widely depending on how the question is phrased.

The Scottish Government wants to hold a referendum on the issue in 2010.

The poll of 1,010 people, carried out between 22 and 24 June by ICM, found 58% of respondents were in favour of the idea of holding a referendum next year on whether Scotland should become independent, with only 37% against.

When asked "In a referendum on independence for Scotland, how would you vote?", 38% responded that they believed Scotland should become an independent country, with 54% saying they did not believe it should become independent.

However, the pollsters also asked a separate question asking whether people agreed or disagreed that "the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state" - the preferred wording of the Scottish Government for a future referendum.

In this case, 42% agreed with the statement, with 50% opposed.The poll also asked which of a range of scenarios were closest to people's views of how Scotland should be governed.

Under this wording, only 28% backed the option of Scotland becoming independent of the rest of the UK, with 47% in favour of remaining in the UK, with the Scottish Parliament able to make some decisions about the level of taxation and government spending in Scotland.

I would favour a referendum only with a straight question, a straight yes/no question. That's not on offer - that is not what Alex Salmond is offering
Iain Gray
Scottish Labour leader

A further 22% said Scotland should remain part of the UK, with decisions about the level of taxation and spending in Scotland made by the UK Government.

Finally, respondents were asked whether they believed it was likely or unlikely Scotland would become completely independent from the UK within the next 20 years.

The results showed that 10% thought it was very likely and 28% believed it was quite likely.

However, a larger percentage were not so sure, with 34% responding that it was quite unlikely and 24% believing independence was very unlikely.

Independence referendum

The poll also suggested that 58% of Scots wanted a referendum on independence.

Labour's Scottish leader Ian Gray told BBC Scotland that he remained opposed to the SNP's plans to hold a referendum next year.

He added: "I would favour a referendum only with a straight question, a straight yes/no question. That's not on offer - that is not what Alex Salmond is offering.

"What he is offering is a rigged question. So that referendum is not on offer."

The Scottish Government's constitution minister Mike Russell told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that the nationalists were winning the argument.

He said: "We have done as we said at the beginning - we would have the national conversation and we would hold this referendum in 2010.

"I was appointed as minister for the constitution in February. That remains our aim and indeed we've got a big constitution meeting in Dundee today.

"So we're taking this issue forward in exactly the way we said we would and you can't criticise us for sticking to what we said we'd do."

But Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott said he did not think people "were actually that interested" in the constitutional debate.

He added: "What I think they are interested in is the jobs in our economy and the fact that we are still in recession - those are the issues politicians should be focusing on, and absolutely should stop talking endlessly that people aren't interested in."

Annabel Goldie, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: "Clearly Alex Salmond's gripe and grudge politics with Westminster is not taking a trick with the Scottish populous.

"The poll shows support for devolution has never been higher, so people want a strong Scotland within a strong United Kingdom."

'Increasingly attractive'

Politics professor John Curtice, of the University of Strathclyde, said the findings suggested that 10 years of devolution - including two years of SNP government - had done little to whet Scots' appetite for independence.

"The straightforward question on whether people want independence or not has been asked many times by ICM over the past 10 years.

"At 37%, those saying they backed independence has never been lower, while at 54% the proportion saying they are against has never been higher.

"The option of proposing a multi-option referendum rather than a simple vote on independence must be beginning to look increasingly attractive to the SNP government.

"It seems as though a third option of increasing the tax powers of the Scottish parliament, but remaining part of the Union would be by far the most popular option."

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