The future of Scotland’s place in the UK is still dividing voters down the middle a week before the Holyrood election, according to a new survey.
A study by Lord Ashcroft, the former Tory chairman, suggests 45% of Scots would vote no to independence while 44% would vote yes.
When people who don’t know are excluded from the results, the poll divides 51-49 in favour of staying in the UK.
The findings were based on more than 2,000 adults between April 7 and 19. Eight focus groups, including one in Aberdeen, were consulted between April 14 and 22.
More than two thirds of voters said their opinion on the constitution has remained unchanged since 2014, when Scots split 55-45 in favour of the union.
One third of SNP supporters said they had changed their minds at least once.
What are the referendum concerns?
Voters were more likely to say the standard of living would decrease and taxes would rise. More than half thought food prices would increase.
On balance, people were more likely to say energy prices would go up and NHS waiting lists would rise.
But they were also more likely to say opportunities for young people would increase, tourism would benefit and equality would improve.
‘Sleaze-ridden Boris Johnson’
SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown highlighted party leader Nicola Sturgeon’s high popularity ratings.
“In just over a week, the people of Scotland will face a choice of whether to put Scotland’s future in the hands of the sleaze-ridden Boris Johnson government or into our own hands with Both Votes SNP,” he said.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The SNP’s plans for another referendum would smash Scotland’s fragile economic recovery into pieces.
“Our efforts to protect jobs would be shattered and Scotland’s economy would descend into chaos.”
For the constituency votes, the SNP are forecast to poll 49%, the Scottish Conservatives 22%, Scottish Labour 15%, the Liberal Democrats 8% and the Greens 5%.
In the regional list vote, the SNP are on 42%, the Conservatives are on 22%, Labour on 16%, the Greens on 9% and the Lib Dems on 7%. Alba and Reform UK are each on 2%.
Lion or snake?
The focus groups also threw up some bizarre conclusions – including an exercise in describing what kind of animal characteristics political leaders display.
Ms Sturgeon was likened to a lion or a “wise young owl”, but also a “self-assured” hyena.
Former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who now leads the Alba party, was given a tough time with comparisons to a snake, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson was heavily criticised, including a comparison to a mosquito or bull.